Father’s Day might’ve gotten dampened, but not totally dark, for a North Myrtle Beach man orphaned at age 6 who finds sunshine whenever the chance to chuckle hits his horizon.
Doug “Chesty” Chastain had lost his mother to cancer, and a year later, his remarried father to a heart attack. He also was the lone survivor in a crash that claimed all three siblings, including both older brothers and a sister, and the driver, his stepmom, on a ride to school.
The kin who stepped in to be Chastain’s parents and raise him in Alabama gave him another chance to be a son.
Chastain said his second family, with cousins he grew up calling his brother and sister, let him have parents again, including an uncle “who was my dad.”
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He said the Father’s Day scenario in which a mother will acquire a card for youngster to sign and give to his or her father probably is commonplace, especially “when you’re a little kid,” but soon with age, “you become aware of what’s going on.”
“I saw a lot of other people whose parents weren’t always ‘parenty,’ ” Chastain said. “I grew up in a family where I never saw my parents fight.”
He remembered, even in a household “with not much money, my parents were always there, and the bills were always paid.”
That uncle made the ultimate difference as a role model and father for Chastain.
“I knew my dad worked hard,” he said. “He was the type of guy who never called in sick. He was always consistent. I learned to be as consistent as I am now because of him, and you appreciate him for that.”
Chastain, who went on to graduate from Liberty University in Virginia with a degree in TV and film production, said the most valuable trait he gained from his second father was “the consistency of doing the right thing, being there, and if you make a commitment, you stick with it.”
With a son adopted through marrying, Michele Chastain, Doug Chastain said since first meeting Nathan Atkinson at age 5 – with a kick in the shin from the boy, then daring him to repeat it and answering with a fall to generate shock then a laugh – he’s seen the now 21-year-old college student grow up.
“Now it’s like I see him as a man,” Chastain said, ready for when Atkinson fathers children of his own.
Chastain’s wife, whom he met as a single mother in 1996 in metro Washington, D.C., said he loves the beach and working by day for Myrtle Beach Tours and helping set up equipment for recreation on the sand, such as for beach weeks for college students and high schoolers to play volleyball.
“He’s kind of young at heart,” Michele Chastain said, “but he doesn’t act like it. I tell people this all the time.”
Son, not stepson
She also will never forget Doug Chastain stepping in and “going above and beyond” as a father, who always introduces Atkinson not as his stepson, but his son, she said.
She found that is Doug’s genuine nature, and it especially shines through in his patience with her limited mobility from injuries sustained in a collision in 1987, and his helping during his free time today with their Internet branding business as a second job.
“He is the nicest person I have ever known in my life,” Michele Chastain said.
Looking forward to starting this Sunday by sleeping in and relaxing, Doug Chastain dished out a Father’s Day memory from his childhood, from about fourth grade. He said drew a picture that was transferred on to a plate given for Father’s Day. Although he might not ever award it a ribbon, calling it “horrible” today, he just got a reminder of the meaning it bestowed, and still does.
“I was home in April,” Chastain said, “and it’s still hanging there.”