Sometimes, I spend a stupid amount of time on blog titles. They have to be short enough, they should probably allude to what I’m about to write about, and for whatever reason, I have to do the title first before the writing.
Today was one of the easiest.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have two really great parents. They’re very different, but share similar values. They’re both health-conscious and raised us to understand the importance diet and activity can have on mental health (though if you’re depressed, and someone tells you to “just work out” you can absolutely punch them, even if only in your mind).
Today, though, happens to be Father’s Day, so I’m gonna talk about my dad.
And I’m going to try to get through this without crying.
I’m going to try to get through this without sobbing.
I had two men in my very early life I considered father figures, but if we’re being honest the term was best friends. One, my Little Granddad, died suddenly when I was eight.
The other one, my dad, was the one who gave me that news.
My dad was not equipped to deliver or handle really bad news. I remember once, when I was seven, I cut my thumb open on a cat food lid when I was feeding our pets. I cried out, he ran over to me, said, “JESUS CHRIST,” and turned white as a sheet. I thought I was going to possibly die.
But this day, he was perfect. I woke up late, at 8:14 a.m. That time is burned into my mind, because 1) school had already started and nobody yelled me awake and 2) 8/14 was also my granddad’s birthday.
I ran through the door into my parent’s room to make sure they hadn’t abandoned us in the middle of the night (I had some real abandonment issues then, based on nothing), and found them both asleep, too, which escalated the weirdness exponentially. I shook my dad since I was less scared of him, and he swiftly got up, took me back into my room, sat next to me on the bed, held my hand, and told me.
And then he took me to work with him and let me write, and draw, and use the typewriter, which honestly was everything I ever wanted to do when I was eight.
I tell that story because it really sums up who my dad is. But there’s a whole lot more to him than that, and I’d like to spend a little time talking about it.
He’s gentle, except when coaching or seeing real blood.
He’s introverted, and spends a lot of time in the vast and rich recesses of his own mind, in which there is stored so much (sports and stats and music and songs and albums and band names and band member names and accounting practices and political history and American history and theater history and bodybuilding and basketball and so many stories, to give a quick rundown) that I can’t even imagine the depths.
What’s not in there: carpentry, home decorating, car stuff of any kind, most girl stuff outside of sports.
He never drank, or smoked, or did drugs of any kind, and he, like me, only suffers the vice of sugar addiction.
He’s got a great smile and laugh, and if you can catch either of those you know you did something really great.
The lessons that stay most with me include the following from him (poems first):
- Don’t Quit
- Pick up for yourself, plus one more.
- Ain’t got time to bleed.
- You’re tough like a hockey player.
- Smile. It feels better.
- See the concert.
- Go to the game.
- Always answer with kindness.
- If you haven’t got anything nice to say, keep quiet.
He taught us these lessons mostly by following them all himself, no matter what. As I followed him like a puppy everywhere, I learned the importance of keeping a calm mind, using my mental toughness sports techniques (yeah, there was a VHS series and yeah, we watched it) to breathe through times that made me want to throw stuff and scream. I learned that the worst feeling in the world was seeing his startled disappointment when I did something that fell outside of what he’d taught us. I still see it in my mind and use it as an internal compass even now.
Because that look, man. It sucked.
My dad turned 70 this year, and just had elbow surgery this week that left a badass Frankenstein-like scar. He joked all the way through it.
He still works out four or five days a week, and is in incredible shape.
He retired from coaching, and as hard as that was for him, it freed up his time for him to travel. He got to see England and Ireland. He got to walk on Abbey Road. We’ve gotten to see so many concerts together, more than we ever have.
He’s a CPA who has several locations, but also owns a movie theater. I didn’t understand accounting, but thank goodness I went into the other family business, so we can talk numbers and box office reports and screens and all kinds of stuff that brings for some great conversations (maybe not so great to anyone listening, now that I think about it).
He has always been very active politically, something I also got from both parents, so I know we’re always up for a good call when it opens with “Did you see what he did today?” I was always proud to know candidates, from local races to national, and to say that my parents volunteered and stumped in the 70s and 80s.
He has a rational mind, and doesn’t get too riled up. I know that I can take worries to him and he will take them in calmly. I know that when I do something absolutely idiotic, such as the time I got arrested, he will absolutely not show up to bail me out.
He’s not one to call a lot, but will always answer. This used to frustrate me when I wanted him to be a part of my son’s life, but it occurred to me much, much later that this was just as much my fault. I also made zero effort, because I’m just like him.
He’s the smartest person I know. His head for numbers pushed him through the CPA program in 3.5 years, while he also worked. He set the curve in every class with a curve, something that used to really piss his classmates off.
In short (well, medium), he’s my hero to this day.
He and my stepmom are downsizing this summer, and auctioning off our childhood home, where he has lived since I was 6? 7? It’s about 5000 square feet of memories, and the place I wanted to spend all my time until I got my license.
When I saw him recently, he gave me a couple of boxes of stuff he’d carefully labeled with my name.
And I saw.
He saved everything. Every paper. Every note from middle school. Every souvenir from vacation, every school assignment, even coupons.
As I went through each item, I felt him watching me for reactions. When I paused a moment, looking at a letter from a high school friend written when we left for college, he interjected.
“If it makes you smile, you should probably keep it.”
Dad, I want to keep you forever. You’re the best person, the best role model, and the greatest steady presence I’ve ever known. The world is better with you in it, and I know thousands of people who feel the same as I do.
I love you so, so much.
Happy Father’s Day.