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What It Means To Be Family

Family is a unique concept in that it can mean many different things to different people. Initially, some might think of their parents or siblings, and for some, family means their closest friends. Maybe it’s a sports team or your regular cycling group that you consider family, whatever it may be, it’s that creative and individual influence that makes the concept of “family” so heartwarming. So what better way to kickstart our family section in the new Fargo Monthly than to introduce you to a dad who shows us what family means to him.

Paul Hoefer, some might know him as the third baseman of his softball team, or maybe as the Vice President of Business Development here at Spotlight. But to a handful, he’s known as family and to some, Dad.

Paul has worked hard to be active in his kids’ lives, have a relationship with them and support his family

The idea of being a dad has always held a special place in Paul’s heart, even if it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind until he found himself in the position of being one at the age of 23. He thinks his desire to be a good dad may come from the influence of his own.

Paul and his younger sister, Stacy grew up with their parents. Around the time that he was in kindergarten, Paul met his dad.

“My mom had gotten divorced from our biological dad. A few years later, she met who I call my dad now,” Paul said.

Tim, Paul’s dad, legally adopted him and his sister after he married their mom.

“I still remember Paul and Stacy answering the judge’s questions during the hearing. The judge asked if they were okay with the adoption and they could hardly contain themselves about how happy they were,” Tim said. “I was very fortunate to meet Peggy and be able to step into a father’s role when we were married.”

The family grew more when Paul’s parents had another daughter, Michelle. Some could say that Michelle was Paul and Stacy’s half-sister, but there was no “half” meaning to the siblings.

Today, Paul lives about an hour and a half away from his parents. He says he likes to be close with his family and they try to see each other when they can. The way that Tim stepped up and took on a role as Paul and his sister’s father may be what inspired Paul to do the same years later, when he met his daughter, Emma.

When Emma, who is now 17-years-old and a senior in high school, was just over a year old, Paul and her mom got married. Paul was 23-years-old, a college student, a rugby player and liked to go out with friends, and then, he was a dad.

“I JUST INSTANTLY BECAME A DAD AND, YOU KNOW, FELL IN LOVE WITH BEING A DAD,” HE SAID.

In time, Paul and Emma’s mom separated, but Paul has consistently had a hand in raising Emma, nurturing their father daughter relationship.

“She might not be my biological daughter, just like I’m not my dad’s biological kid. My dad looks at Stacy and me as his kids the same way I look at Emma as mine,” he said.

Emma feels the same: Paul is her dad, no question. She appreciates their relationship.

With these two paralleled stories, it is hard to miss the constant—the role of a father. Paul found it was very easy for him to step into that role.

“I don’t know if it had something to do with knowing that I was Emma at one time in my life. I wasn’t one year old, but I still was [young],” he said. “I’ve always looked up to my dad, and he [stepped up] for me. I didn’t necessarily just do that for Emma, I did it just as much for her as I did for me.”

Paul and Emma’s story is just one of the unique relationships Paul has with family. In 2008, Paul and his ex-wife had triplets. Emma, found herself with three little sisters, and Paul, three more daughters to call himself a dad to. Years later, like Paul,

Stacy and Michelle, another set of siblings bonded through their own meaning of family.

Over the years, Paul has made sure that he is equally part of his four daughters’ lives. On the days that they are with him, he makes sure to dedicate time to attend sporting games or make sure they have rides to practices and friends’ houses.

Although there were ups and downs, scary moments and joyous ones, Paul eventually found a job at Spotlight, met his now fiance, Wendy, and once more had the chance to build familial relationships. Wendy has three kids, Emma and Taylor who are older and now out of the house, and Braydon who is now 18. Because Wendy’s children were older when Paul and she met, they had built a different kind of relationship than Paul has with Emma or triplets; but they are family nonetheless.

Braydon was 10-years-old when he met Paul. Today they are close and have developed their own relationship.

“I don’t try to pretend to be his dad or act like I’m his dad. I try moreso to be an influence or a support system for him. Braydon calls me Paul, and I call him Braydon, and that’s our relationship and that’s just fine with me,” Paul explained. “When you’re with someone as long as I’ve been with Wendy, eight years now, you naturally look at their kids as your kids as well. But, I don’t try to overstep my spot either.”

Again, the role of a father and the meaning of family in Paul’s life stays constant. He says it makes everything he does worth it.

THE FAMILY BREAKDOWN

  • Taylor, NDSU alum, lives in Fargo
  • Emma (big Emma), recent graduate of St. Cloud State University with a degree in teaching
  • Braydon, 18-years-old, freshman at NDSU
  • Emma (little Emma), 17-years-old, senior in high school at Moorhead High school, plays lacrosse
  • Addison, Brielle and Gracie are 13-years-old, 8th graders at Horizon Middle School, play basketball and volleyball, and trying out lacrosse for the first time this Spring

Being a part of his daughters’ lives is important to him now, but Paul thinks about the future as well. In the last two and a half years, Paul has lost 45 pounds since committing to better himself for the sake of his kids. He says he works hard so that he can be in great shape for future father-daughter dances and to be an active grandparent one day.

“I truly am excited to be a relatively young grandpa whenever that day comes,” Paul said, and added, “which should be several years down the line!”

What does it mean to you to be a dad?

“What does it mean, it should be an easy question, but it’s a tough one. It means everything, I would rather be a dad to my girls than anything. It gives me a purpose. It gives me joy. It gives you something to be proud of, to work hard for, and to know that you’re doing something for more than just yourself. Everything I do, I do think about how it affects them. If it’s not going to affect them in a positive way, that’s probably not something I’m going to do.”

WHAT DOES FAMILY MEAN TO YOU?

Share a memory or photo of your family with what family means to you and tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at fargomonthly! You might be featured in the family section of our next issue!

Written by Geneva Nodland

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