***BEWARE OF TYPOS TODAY... THEIR WILL BE MORE THAN USUAL***
Well, clearly today (or yesterday) is the day to think about my dad. In my opinion he's the reason they came out with those "World's Best Dad" mugs and T-shirts:) The guy may not be perfect (sorry dad), but he's pretty much the best dad a girl could ask for.
When anyone that knew me growing up talks about the old days, they'll pretty much tell you I appeared to have the "Leave It To Beaver" life. I thought I did too. I had parents that loved me, a roof over my head, a pool in my yard, nice clothes, involved parents that truly cared about what I was doing and gave me the trust and freedom to become the person that I was meant to be. In honor of Father's Day I want to focus on my dad today (you'll hear about my lovely Mommy in the not-so-distant future since she pretty much inspires me on a daily basis anyway).
My parents married young, and I was pretty much conceived right after the honeymoon (I've done the math, their story checks out... I was born 10 months after they got married) and my dad set to work to support his family. He worked as a salesman for the Campbells Soup company, and he didn't make much. His story goes something like this, "I made enough to cover the bills and put away 5 dollars a week to save up to buy a tent so that we could take you guys camping". Wow. And right off the bat, he did get that tent and I have amazing memories of camping as a family when I was a child. One of his other favorite stories to tell was that I used to watch Sesame Street on our old black and white TV and one day I pointed at something gray and said, "ORANGE, Daddy". He decided that day it was time to get a color TV.
Every night, when he came home from work, he could come in the door and the 3 of us would bum rush him. We would all go up and jump on the bed while he changed and my mom made dinner. We would roughhouse and laugh and that was the best part of the day. I felt like I was the most important thing in the world because after a long, hard day nothing made my dad happier than seeing us and spending time with his family. I can see it vividly still, the smiling and the laughing. I remember he would put me to bed and the chore of getting into my pajamas turned into a game that I called "the hardest part of the night". I would make it as difficult as humanly possible for him to get my clothes off of me in order or don my pajamas. I flexed my feet with all my might and made my knees as rigid as I could. I would shoot my arms out to the sides and extend my fingers out as far as I could spread them to keep that shirt from coming off. Then I would make him "watch me sleep". As a mom, I can NOT believe he put up with this! But he would stand at my door and just look at me while I fell asleep. And God forbid he tried to leave before I was asleep, "Daddy, I'm not sleeping yet"... and he would resume his post at my door, guarding me from monsters, sinister shadows and bad dreams.
Much more recently my memories of my dad are more labor intensive... literally. He has helped me move about a dozen times (sometimes single-handedly), built swing a swing set, fixed my pluming (for what feels like) a thousand times, installed fences, bathroom vanities, toilets and so many more things that I could go on for days. Struggling through a very painful divorce this year, my dad has been there for me every step of the way, through every loop on my emotional roller coaster he has been part of the harness keeping me securely fastened to my seat. He has walked me through difficult and scary dealings with my lawyer, with issues dealing with the sale of a house, with abusive land lords and with some scary scenarios that made me think I was fleeing for my life and living in a Lifetime Movie (in which Jodie Sweetin would play me, Jennifer Love Hewitt would play my sister and I have thought intensely on whether my dad should be played by Burt Reynolds or Allen Thicke... the jury is still out). He has fielded my hysterical phone calls with all the strength that I needed and lacked. He has supported my decisions even when I know it was hard for him to do so, and he has never once said anything resembling "I told you so", even though he would have been crazy not to think it after I eloped with a guy I dated for 6 weeks (and that's estimating on the high side), pretty much making every father's worst nightmare come true.
As recently as a few weeks ago I called my dad, and after coaching myself for a few minutes on sounding tough and steady, broke down crying the second I heard his voice with a hysterical rant that went something like, "I got a mean e-mail today from Bo's fiance, the deal fell through on the sale of the house, something happened to my kitchen sink and now the basement is flooding because the utility sink is clogged and overflowing"........... I was beside myself with self-pity, frustration, anger and sadness. I was completely overwhelmed. And my dad said to me, in the most cool and off-handed way, "It's funny you should call me this morning, because I was just having a conversation with my sump pump and it was wondering why I don't take it out anymore so I was just going to throw it in the truck and drive around anyway".
That was the third time in the last 6 months that I just stopped what I was doing and thanked God for the gift of my dad. The other times were when he drove 8 hours to help me load a trailer (by himself) and bring my things home from VA to move into my mom's house. He did this with no notice and with not a word of complaint on how much I had asked of him. Shortly after that he stepped in and made some calls to my lawyer when we realized that he was an old southern boy that didn't have too much respect for women. The second my dad got involved we started seeing results. What dad wants to help handle their daughters divorce issues? But every time I need strength and help I call my Dad. Does that make me a Daddy's girl? I think it might, and I'll happily bear that title knowing my father is behind me.
If being a man means supporting your family, protecting them and being there for them when they need you, then my dad is one of the strongest men I know. He's wonderful in his imperfections too... like missing my baptism and the kids dedication at church because it was on daylight savings day and he rolled in an hour late (he felt horrible about this too, but it's been great material since).
Our family has been through a lot over the years, but we've held strong as a unit. When he and my mom couldn't make it anymore they bore all of our emotional issues with love and with grace. We have all moved on to our own lives now. My brother has his wife and 2 boys and baby girl on the way. My sister found her perfect partner, has a daughter and another on the way. I have the most amazing 4 kids and I do my best every day to be the kind of parent that was modeled for me growing up.
I have always said that I don't know how my parents did it, but they managed to raise 3 normal kids that are leading happy and successful lives with families of their own. My hope for myself is to have done half as well as they did. To raise my kids to believe in themselves and to know without a shadow of a doubt that I believe in them... because at the end of the day, part of what keeps me going is knowing that my family expects me to and, even more, knows I can.
Phillipians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me". When I'm at my lowest I remember that my God is with me and will give me strength. Sometimes, when He's working in His mysterious ways, instead of giving the strength directly to me, I think he gives it to my dad so that he can lend it to me. Thank you Lord, for my dad. Because I know you gave me the exact Dad I need, I know I am the exact mom that my kids need. I will follow his example and continue to draw strength from him.
Thanks Dad. Happy Father's Day. I love you.