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Paternal

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I have always loved my dad. I know that's nothing out of the ordinary, but for as long as I can remember, I have had just one of the best dads a guy could have. I see a lot of other people out there with strained or vacant relationships with their fathers and I see myself as one of the lucky few who can say that my dad is amazing. All of my best memories are of us together. Even as a kid, all of my friends loved my dad, but he was always my best friend growing up. He really knew how to be strict as a parent should be, while also being the one person I knew I could talk to about anything.

No matter where we went or what we were doing, my dad was always able to talk to people and instantly brighten their day. Wherever we went, everyone loved my dad, but not nearly as much as I did. He could fix any problem, play any sport, and boy, was he smart! We'd go fishing and hunting together. He'd teach me all sorts of different games we would play together. He would also show me his massive tool collection and teach me what each thing did. We even had a farm and he would teach me how to get the most out of each animal. Growing up I knew that I wanted to be just like him.  

All in all, my family had an interesting history. A story that my dad would tell me was that our family had a special secret. Apparently, his grandfather only had one son, along with his father, and then him. For several generations, our family only had sons and only one per generation. My dad would always tell stories of his dad and how close they were. For as long as the family remembers, the men had always been really close and it made me feel good knowing that I can be a part of something so special. I never wanted siblings anyway. More time that my dad and I can spend together, just the two of us. He was all the company I could ever ask for.

Both my mother and my grandparents, my dad's mom and dad, died when I was real little. I would hear a lot about my grandfather, but all that I would hear about my mother and grandmother was that they were a lot alike. Dad said that my mom and grandma didn't really care about us. That they didn't want us to be happy and that they hated only having sons. All my dad would really say about my mom was that she never loved me the way he did, which was fine with me. She died when I was too young to really remember her and I got out with the best parent a kid could have.  

I do have to say that the men in my family have passed down a deli-style food truck as our family business. It does well. We serve sandwiches with freshly sliced meats and cheeses, as well as fresh, homemade coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. We've really made a name for ourselves in several towns across the country. My dad did raise a lot of his product himself on our farm. We had lamb, chickens, and especially pigs. We had a lot of pigs. As dangerous as it was for a child, my dad had me outside with him when he would gut something for meat.

He was always real careful about it and made sure that I never hurt myself, which I can't remember doing, so I'd say he did a good enough job. He would show me the process of taking an animal and preparing it as meat to serve for the business. It was just fascinating how much he knew and the cool stuff he could do. Every now and then, he would let me help with little projects for the animals. I could feed them, wash them, and when he thought I was ready, I even branded them for fun. 

I remember what he did for me for my 5th birthday. It was one of the best birthdays of my childhood. All my friends came over and we went through all the birthday traditions: party games, birthday cake, and a lot of presents. My dad would tell funny stories and even perform his own kind of magic, which were easy card tricks, but to us kids it was actually magic. That's not what made it so special though. Later that night, after everyone had left and I had been sent to bed, my dad woke me up and told me he had one more present he wanted to give me. Though I was still tired from all the fanfare earlier, I was so excited for one more present, and one from my favorite person no less.

He brought me outside to the back of the house where we kept the animals in pens. He led me over inside the pig sty where one pig was secured to a chopping block. Its body was tightly tied to both the block and the ground so it wasn't able to escape. Its head was also tied down to the top of the block. It squirmed and squealed helplessly trying to get out. My dad looked down at me in the blackness of night and told me that I was about to take my first step to become a man just like him by killing his best pig. My eyes were still heavy and blurry from having just woken up, but I knew then that this was the best gift I'd ever gotten from anyone.

He handed me a hatchet small enough that I could hold myself and told me to be careful. He looked me in the eye like any good father and instructed me on the importance of safety. I tried my best to listen to him, but I was just so excited. I was going to kill my first boar! He went through the motions with me slowly before directing me to a small area on the pig that I had to aim for. The swine was still squirming and squealing louder and more obnoxious than ever. I told my dad that it was really loud and he told me to just put an end to it then. I was so happy. I held the hatchet firmly in both hands, raised it up, and swung it down on the pig's neck. It started squealing louder still, which only made me want to cut more so that I could silence it.

Every time I brought the hatchet back down on it, it let out an even louder squeal than before, until it stopped all together. Even though it was dark out, I stopped and looked up, noticing how proud my dad was of me. I continued chopping away at the filthy beast. Though I was only five at the time and using a light hatchet, it took much longer than it would have if my dad had been doing it.

It took so long to get the squealing to stop and there was so much blood, even by then. I had it all over me, but I didn't mind it. I suppose it was almost an hour before the entire head came off. It smelled so bad that I had to cover my nose. My dad took the hatchet, put it away and held me in his arms, not caring about the blood now getting all over him. God, I love my dad. He made me take another bath before going back to bed, but it was so worth it. It was such a great birthday. 

It was always me and my dad. After that night, we became closer than ever. My dad never did get around to using the pig I killed in his shop, but the other pigs in the pen had quite a feast that next day. My dad was so proud of me after that. I really didn't ever need school friends or other family when I had my dad around. My mom was gone by this point, but I didn't care. I knew she didn't love me as much as my dad loved me anyway. With him around, growing up through middle and high school was a cinch. I came to him with all my problems, whether they were about school, friends, or girls, and he was able to fix it all with his wisdom. I started working in my dad's deli truck after school and on weekends where I got to make money while spending time with him.

Eventually, I went straight into college. After three years at a state university, I met a girl name Darla. She was beautiful, smart, sweet, the whole package. We dated until we graduated and were engaged that same month. She went on to a job in advertising while I stayed running my dad's food truck. I still was able to see my dad as much as I wanted, but with the fiance in the picture, my time had to be divided. I could tell my dad wasn't too happy about me not being as available as I used to be, but he accepted it and was just glad that I was happy. Darla and I eventually moved into our own apartment and were able to save up for a nice wedding. My dad was my best man, of course.  

Of everything that my new wife could give me, nothing would have made me happier than a son. My father also encouraged us to jump on the baby wagon and get this show on the road. I convinced Darla that we should start right away and after many heated disputes about the matter, she agreed and was pregnant the following month. I never really knew painful anticipation until I experienced the wait to hear the sex of the baby. When I found out that it was a boy, I nearly leaped through the roof.

I thought that maybe my family 'gift' is a real thing after all. Next came the waiting for the baby to be born, which was almost as bad as waiting to know the sex. I wanted to be just as good of a father to my son as my dad was to me. When he finally came, the world around me stopped. I broke down in rivers of tears the minute I actually held my son in my hands for the first time. He was so beautiful. He had many of my features and I never wanted to let him go. We went with the name John, which made him the eighth generation of Johns in my family. I was going to make him as good of a man as my father made me.  

The transition to parenthood was a difficult one, but I loved it nonetheless. I brought my son over to my dad's house all the time. We watched him crawl, walk, talk, and eat solid food for the first time together. I think Darla didn't appreciate just how much time John and I spent with my father, but that didn't faze me. I loved every minute of the time we all spent together. When I eventually heard the news about my dad's cancer, I felt my whole world shatter. My father sat me down and had to explain to me that he would not be around for much longer. I cried. I couldn't even ask follow up questions because it all just came out so strongly. I just sat in his house and cried.

He held me like he did when I was a child and I cried on his shoulder as such. The rest of that day I was so broken up. The rest of that week I couldn't go an hour without breaking out into sobbing fits. I never wanted to leave his side. As such, I brought John over to his place so much more so that he could get to know his grandfather. My dad loved John and was as good with him as I remember him being with me when I was his age.  

I don't believe I ever stopped crying all throughout his funeral. There were times when it came on harder than others, but I was just in a constant state of weeping. I remember holding John through the rough parts and him hugging me back. It was him who really got me through it all. I gave my son all the love I had in me from that point on. My dad did leave me a bunch of stuff, including the food truck, his house for Darla, John, and I, as well as a journal he kept around when we were living together. One night, I started reading what he had written in the journal. It was very clear that he loved me by the way he wrote to me and no one else.

I could only read out of it in short intervals, because I would have to collect my tears after certain passages. Through this journal, he was still communicating with me, sharing family insight, and still being his amazing self even after he was gone. One passage out of it all was more serious than anything else. It was a page entitled, The Secret of the Gift. In it, it reiterated the stories he would tell me about our family's gift to have great relationships with our only sons. The secret was 'to eliminate all that opposed the gift of masculinity, and the gift would continue to flourish'. It was then that it occurred to me that my father had laid out the path for me to continue the gift.

He would always tell me stories about how my terrible mother didn't like how much time he spent with me. She never appreciated the lessons he taught me. It even said in the journal that he never loved my mother as much as he loved me. She never wanted my father or I to be happy. She tried to oppose the gift by trying to keep us apart, but it never worked. I was so glad she was dead. The world didn't need someone that would be so much against love.  

The next couple of pages were violently written scratches of words and small phrases like 'bitch' and 'he's mine' and 'go die'. Then I came across a drawing. Dad was never the best artist, despite his many other talents, but I could see the image clear as day. It was a woman, no doubtfully my mother, lying dead underneath a pig. Both the woman and the beast were headless and lying in blood. Next to them were my dad and I as smiling stick figures. Underneath were the neatly written words, 'That's my boy'. I couldn't help but burst into soft, constant laughter.

My dad was just so amazing. Instead of killing my mother himself, he gave me the chance to do it. Everything about that night came flooding back to me. The pig, the hatchet, the squeals, and my father looking down on me like he couldn't have been prouder. I never really understood what made that birthday so great until then and I loved him even more for it.  

Soon after that, I had taken up the 'spirits', as they say, and everything was going great. We had all moved into my father's house, the food truck business was going great, and my boy and I were as happy as we ever could be. He would watch me work outside with the animals and I taught him all about how to prepare them to eat. His fifth birthday was just around the corner and I had already gotten him a new, bright, shiny bike.

He is going to love it and I'm going to love teaching him how to ride it. When the day arrived, I made sure his party was as amazing as I remember mine being. There were balloons, fun games for the kids to play, and very delicious cake. I gave him his bike and his face lit up the room. I loved seeing him so happy.

I told him that tomorrow, I'd teach him how to ride it and he was so excited that I think he tuckered himself out. After everyone left, I had carried my boy up to his room, and Darla was cleaning up, I had began on my fourth drink for the evening. When I was done, I rinsed out my glass and washed my hands. I went outside for some supplies and brought them in.  

Darla was in the living room, picking up wrapping paper, when I picked up a poker from beside the fireplace and swung it against the back of her head. She fell hard, but was still conscious. A look of pain and shock washed out her face. Before she could collect herself long enough to scream, I clenched her throat and shoved a dish rag in her mouth. Holding it in there, I duct taped her mouth and wrapped it several times around her head. She was a smaller woman, so her punches and kicks only proved to be a slight annoyance. I was worried, however, that all the commotion would wake John up. Luckily, he took after me and was a very heavy sleeper. After I finished duct taping her arms to her sides and legs and ankles together, I carried her outside to the pig pen.

I dropped her on the ground and ran to my work shed for everything else I would need. I thought to myself 'This is exactly what John needs for his future as well as what I need to be a good father. No one could understand the love that we share, especially not her. She doesn't love him like I do; I know she doesn't. My mother, Darla, all of them are all alike. She would only get in the way of our relationship and tarnish all that my family stood for.'

When I returned, several of the pigs were sniffing around her and I could see that she was lying in feces. I got a big kick out of that. I picked her up and dragged her to the chopping block, where I tied her down so that her neck laid evenly across the top. She was still making a lot of noise by this time and grossly sobbing all over the block. She tried to escape her new bindings, but she had forgotten that I had learned from the best.

I left and walked my best pig over to her. I took out a knife and stabbed it underneath its chin and through its head, so it wouldn't make too much more noise as it died. After, I gut the pig, removing most of what was inside, and dumped the contents several feet away. I had stretched out the carcass to a nice, even fold, and draped it over top Darla, who must not have liked the smell, though I couldn't blame her.

I tied the carcass over her. The incision I had made underneath its chin fit perfectly around her head. I couldn't imagine she could see much of anything after that. When I had everything perfectly situated, I was so proud of myself. The masterpiece really looked like a tied, squirmy pig, and her screaming into her gag really sounded like squeals. My dad was a genius.  

I quickly ran up to my son's room. He was still fast asleep, but I woke him up, telling him I still had one more present for him. He rubbed his eyes and jumped out of bed. When I showed him what I had done, his smile was wider than I had ever seen it before. I handed him a hatchet, the same hatchet that I remember using, and told him to be very careful because it was a dangerous tool and I didn't want him hurting anyone. After going through the motions and safety protocols, I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that he was taking his first steps to becoming a man.

He smiled back at me and told me that he loved me. A slight tear ran down my cheek as I returned the phrase. He told me that he didn't like how loud the pig was being and I told him there was one only way to put a stop to it. What a little slugger. I showed where to aim and let him at it. After the first few slices is when he really got the hang of it. As the hour went by, and he was chopping away, all I could do was watch as any dad would and say to myself 'That's my boy.'

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