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6/13/2013 A very special Fatherís Day for single dads

Love for their kids simply doubles-up for fathers who are on their own

Pride, respect, special times together -- even a little hog hunting -- brings these families closer

 The bard, William Shakespeare wrote, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” This quote highlights the mainspring of fatherhood: a good dad strives to teach, guide and protect his children. Three Valley single fathers, Brad Baltzy, George Fenley and Shane Dean are single fathers who make being a “wise father” a full-time job.

 Baltzy is the father of Aspen, a petite 16-year-old who hunts wild boars and operates heavy equipment. Baltzy is big-boned and brown-haired, his daughter slight and blond. Despite this difference, they clearly belong together.

 A single dad for 12 years, Baltzy initially had his daughter part-time until she wanted to go to school in Westcliffe. Now, Aspen spends most of her time with her dad, which Baltzy likes. The most rewarding aspect of being a single dad is the closeness he has with his daughter. “We spend a lot of quality time together,” he says.

 To create this quality time, Baltzy describes the challenges he faces. “It’s hard trying to work full-time and keep up with everything my child is doing,” he says. “It became easier when Aspen got her driver’s license, but I still arrange my work schedule around her school.” When school is not in session, he says, “Aspen works with me on Friday…she operates the skid loader and helps with the excavation work I do.”

 For the summer, Aspen is her dad’s paid employee. Aspen, a laconic teen, doesn’t say much about her workdays with dad. “It’s okay,” she shrugs when asked. She says her favorite activity to do with Baltzy is snowmobiling.

 Father and daughter not only snowmobile together, but they hunt hogs in Oklahoma and go boating and water skiing at Pueblo Lake. They also take out the ATV and rumble up to Hermit Pass to hike.

 Braltzy’s advice to single dads: “Step up to the plate and do what you have to do…do your best.”

 Another single dad, George Fenley, not only steps up to the plate, but he works 24/7 to be a “wise father” for his two boys, Austin, age 11, and Trumann, age 10. Fenley, a single dad since September 2011, has his kids half of the week. He also homeschools both boys. Fenley teaches Music Appreciation online for K12 schools, which allows him to be home with Austin and Trumann. “We spend all day and night together,” Fenley says. “When we are not homeschooling, we hike or play with the dog.” Also the music director at the Cowboy Church near Westcliffe, Fenley, as a Christian, seeks to impart key moral lessons to his kids.

 “I want Austin and Trumann to grow up to treat others with kindness and respect,” he says. Having taught in the public schools and seeing little administrative support to address discipline issues, Fenley decided to teach his boys at home. “Personally, I’d rather do the raising of my children instead of sending them off for seven or eight hours with others.” Fenley, who plays the piano and guitar, is also teaching his boys to play instruments. Austin, learning piano from Fenley’s mother, has already begun to finger out Beethoven.

 Along with a curriculum of reading, writing and math, the boys are also learning German, which Trumann demonstrates by saying in Deutsch, “have a nice day.” His hazel-brown eyes flash as he says his favorite movie is Schindler’s List, a movie dad has watched with him and his brother to educate them on integrity.

 Fenley finds his single parenting challenging when the boys go each week to be with their mom. “I just want to be with them,” he says. The most rewarding aspect of being a father is the close connection he has with his kids. “I love being open with them and knowing I can say sorry to them and that they can say sorry to me. We have learned to love and forgive each other.”

 Another wise dad, Shane Dean, chef at the Feed Store restaurant, has two kids, Quin, age 19 and Lily, age 8. He became a single father when Quin was 3 and half, raising him for 16 years as a single parent (along with his ex-wife Monica Dean). Lily, currently living in Chandler, Ariz., spent two years living in Westcliffe until her parents decided she should attend school in Chandler.

 Dean sees the challenge of single parenting in his having to work so much. “It’s hard to balance work and family,” he says. “I want to take trips together with my children, but it’s sometimes hard to schedule ttime off.”

 One thing Dean likes to do with his kids is to devise a plan, like finding out which restaurant serves the best nachos, and then taking excursions to several diners that feature nachos and tasting each of them. “It’s fun,” Dean says, “and the kids have a good time with Dad.”

 His food trips exemplify his advice to single dads, which is “spend as much time as you can with your kids. I take my kids anywhere I can….I enjoy being with them.” For awhile Dean also homeschooled Quin, though, at his son’s request, he ended up attending a public school.

 Dean’s reward as a single dad happened when Quin got his own apartment. “He did it on his own, with his own money,” Dean says. “I thought it was really cool when he told me he wrote a check to pay three months rent in advance.” Quin just recently moved out, leaving Dean as an empty-nester.

 Mark Twain, reflecting on the wisdom of fathers, said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” For Baltzy, Fenley and Dean, the wisdom is spending as much time as they can with their kids and teaching them to be productive and loving adults. Isn’t that what Father’s Day is about, acknowledging the wisdom – and eternal love -- we received from our fathers?

– Cyn Williams