I never knew how much of a gift I had in my father until my freshman year of college. It was the start of my second semester and my new best friend and I were moving into a new dorm room together. We were ecstatic that we were both able to escape from our equally crazy previous roommates and were looking forward to an adventurous semester together. As we anxiously awaited for Laura’s dad to arrive to assume our beds into bunk beds, we discussed all the fun parties we could throw in our new spacious room. (Imagine 12 x 12 being spacious.)
I hadn’t met Laura’s father before and was a little nervous. He came barreling into the room with his overflowing tool box and barely said hello before getting to work on the beds. The next 30 minutes was full of more swear words than I heard at all the frat parties from my first semester.
Laura’s dad was loud and red-faced and took no time for niceties. I remember feeling embarrassed that I was scared. Later, after he left, I said to Laura, “God, I’m SO sorry that we made your Dad do that, if I had known it was going to be such a problem we could have tried to tackle it ourselves.”
She just laughed and said, “You mean because he was swearing? Katie, that’s NORMAL. That’s what dads do. It doesn’t mean he didn’t want to do it. Chill out.”
I thought he was going to burn the dorm down. That was normal? Not in my house.
My dad was the opposite. He is the most tender, calm, kind, and passionate man I know. Our house wasn’t filled with the typical masculinity or stereotypical “dad” culture. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that. I just didn’t grow up with it or ever experience it on a first hand basis.
Dads are often overlooked when credit is due in the parenting game. I’m so grateful for my Dad. My dad was always present. He was quiet and timid and the strongest way possible. He was nurturing and calm and sometimes could say the most without saying anything at all. He was always my quiet supporter, cheering for me from the sidelines in the most graceful way. He’s still there, I can feel him even now, waving his arms and smiling his big Dad smile.
A big emphasis was never put on sports – I still can barely sit through a sporting event, live or on TV, without being confused or bored. Of course this doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun playing sports with my Dad. We had wild games of wiffle ball and basketball and goofed around in the pool and ocean. He taught me how to play tennis and golf, and when I whined about hating golf and being the only girl player after only a year he did not put up a fight and let me quit. Thanks Dad for letting me be me.
Whenever my mom was out late at a parent teacher conference or other event and dad was responsible for dinner he’d whip up one of three things, a frozen Tony’s pizza, pancakes, or grilled cheese. These nights always felt like vacation. We didn’t even use the “fancy” napkins with dinner and got to make fun ice cream sundaes afterwards. Thanks for teaching me to put cereal and pretzels in my sundaes. It’s the little things that make life fun.
He’d always invited me to go on walks with him, whether is was at the county park, at the beach or just in our neighborhood.
We’d quietly chat about my day at school or walk in a calm silence as he’d point out small nuances and little details in the landscapes. Whether it be the way squirrels played, the shapes of the clouds, the new shade the leaves were changing, or the odd wreath hanging on old Mr. Larson’s door. Thanks dad for always making me notice and appreciate the small things and change my perspective of my world.
Even when it was in the same old neighborhood you lived in since you were a child. Perspective is key.
I was lucky to always have music playing in my house growing up. If neither of my parents were currently playing the piano in our living room, music was filling the house from the record player or stereo. If my mom was in control, which, if I’m being honest, was more often than not, we’d all be treated to Broadway tunes. Otherwise my Dad would turn on some of his classic rock favorites like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or Deep Purple.
I remember one time I walked into the living room to find my Dad laying flat on his back on the floor with his eyes closed. Pink Floyd was playing. My first thought was, “Is he okay?” He then invited me to sit down with him. He said to close my eyes and just listen to the music. Thanks Dad, for making me slow things down and for making me always choose classic rock over modern-day pop.
He actually always seemed excited to help with boring school homework like memorizing state capitals and quizzing me on history and English facts. Once it was time to do any project that involved poster making I knew I could count on him to meet me at the dinner table with a ruler and a straight edge. He was meticulous about making straight lines and making sure everything look perfect. His art school days always showed. Thanks dad for always making it a guarantee that my projects would get an A.
Always prepared with a camera he taught me about negative space and how to find the right angles for your photos. Although others may judge me for taking 20 photos of the same sunset, I know he never will. Dad, thanks for showing me that beauty can be documented and we can alter our perception through photos.
Even if it’s the same sun setting over the same beach year after year.
Once it was time for me to learn how to drive he took me down to the empty parking lot at the pool. He let me drive around in circles and made sure I was completely comfortable before taking me out on the main road. As I white knuckled it on the highway and screamed whenever someone passed me or I got over 50 MPH he held his patience and never raised his voice. Thanks for having confidence in me.
As I got older I would tend to lean on my mom during the hard times and heart breaks. Yet, I always knew my dad was there, worrying about me and thinking about me. He was always aware of the problems, and even if we didn’t talk about the specifics, I knew I could count on him to take my mind of things or to just to lean on him and cry. We’d sit and be quiet together or go for a car ride or watch some sappy movie on TV. Thanks Dad for always watching girly movies and celebrity entertainment and simply being there as a quiet supporter. Also for reading my US Weekly’s so you’d be “on top of things”.
If I needed it, I could fall into his arms and let my troubles fall aways. My dad is a little man who weighs less than I do, but when he hugs me, he hugs me with his whole heart. He makes me feel small and innocent again, like he could fix anything with a “breakfast for dinner!” night and a hug.
Thanks for always believing in me and telling me I’m capable of doing hard things.
Dad, you certainly made it hard for any other man to fill your shoes. Ryan is so similar to you in so many ways, it took me awhile to find someone to live up to your tender heart. You’ve shown me what a true father looks like and have done a wonderful job raising both a son and a daughter. You make my world a more beautiful place and I can’t wait to learn more from you as we continue our walks into the future. I hope you know how grateful I am for all that you do.
Also thanks for always letting me win at Monopoly. No one else plays like you.