I grew up surrounded by fathers. My grandfathers were both still living throughout my childhood (one still is today) and my father was always around (something increasingly rare in this day and age.
My father's father always had a refrigerator full of the old glass 9oz Coke bottles, which he would give to us when Mom wasn't looking. He helped me to make a pair of earrings in his workshop when I was 11. He smiled and hugged me after I "bandaged' his foot, making the excruciating pain of his gout even worse. And the last time we saw him, wracked with cancer and barely able to stand on his own, he promised over and over that he'd come to visit us as soon as he was well enough to travel.
My mother's father never ran out of stories to tell. Stories about milking cows and squirting the barn kittens in the face with the fresh milk. Stories about the time he spent working the soda fountains (he made us the chocolate sodas to prove it). Stories about eggs, toast and coffee for 24 cents. Stories about the war - seasickness, sunburns, guard duty, and meeting my grandmother when the Army sent him away to school.
He always took us to the beach. Every year he rented that house in Ocean City, NJ, and all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins piled in. It never occurred to him not to do it. It never occurred to him to say "No, I'd really just like to walk alone," when his grandchildren, ages 5-15, wanted to get up and walk on the beach with him at sunrise. We slowed his pace considerably and made breakfast at Tony's 34th Street Grille quite a bit more expensive, but that never mattered. He'd just drink his coffee and watch us eat over the top of his Wall Street Journal.
My father was the kind of guy who was strapped enough for cash that he rode the city bus to work in order to leave the car with my mother. He would get off that bus, see the plight of Philadelphia's homeless population, and leave everything from his old running shoes and a sack lunch to his William and Mary letter jacket on a bench where someone might find it and make better use of it than he could. He was the kind of guy who couldn't afford to move his wife and two children out of a two-bedroom apartment, but when he found the diamond ring at the grocery store he turned it in anyway. And he was the kind of guy who joined the Army reserve at 45 because he felt that he still had something to give back to his country.
Given the examples I had growing up, it should be no surprise that my husband is the kind of father he is. He already had a son of his own from a previous marriage, and yet he willingly took on four more children when we married. And he didn't just take on the financial responsibilities. My oldest son told his grandmother (my mother) that he didn't hit his sisters anymore. When she asked why, he explained: "Jim told me that big brothers are supposed to take care of their little sisters." My youngest daughter occasionally cries when he goes to bed before her bedtime hugs. They all want to go see him and "Poppa" at work at the bakery, and that's only partly because of the donuts.
All that being said, I doubt I would appreciate the importance of an earthly father if I didn't understand that earthly fathers were intended to be a reflection of the Heavenly Father. I have been blessed to have fathers in my life and in the lives of my children who understand that their primary purpose is to be that reflection.