dear old dad

Growing up, I just assumed everyone had a dad like mine. (Except waaaaaay less embarrassing.) My dad loved me, hugged me, played catch with me, taught me how to tell time, watched Little House on the Prairie with me, listened to me, fixed things for me, built things for me, wrestled with me, cooked for me, helped me with math homework, came to every one of my track and cross country meets (& softball & basketball games), bragged about me at work, chauffered me to and fro, took me to Cincinnati Reds’ games, watched the Bengals with me every Sunday afternoon,  loved my mom like crazy, provided for my every (true) need, just about always knew the answer to everything, and worked his tail off to take us on inexpensive but awesome vacations.

But everyone’s dad did this stuff, right? I mean, it’s like a dad’s reasonable act of service or something, right? Nothing unusual about my dad (except he was alllllways embarrassing me).

Dad introduced me to new books. (He’s a voracious reader.) He turned me on to Anne of Green Gables. We watched North and South together (he stood in front of the TV during the risque scenes). He helped us make Snowmen Families using metal trash cans. He helped us build Hay Forts in Grandpa’s barn. He went to Japan for a month for work and brought me back a t-shirt that said, “The Flag is Waving in the Wind. I Wave Good-bye to Dad When He Leaves the House.” (I still have it.) He gave us horsey rides and piggyback rides and wheelbarrow rides. He helped me put on my Clown Shoes From Hades that I had to wear for our church’s clown ministry (yes, we had a clown ministry). He took us swimming and hiking and exploring and biking.

When I asked him to help me choose between Guy A and Guy B, he said neither. (Six months later, I met Guy C, and 18 months after that, I married him.). Dad takes the girly books I write to work with him (Honda Auto Plant) and convinces his burly co-workers that a good husband/boyfriend would buy them for his significant other. When I worked at Honda one summer during college, I rode in with Dad 90 minutes early and studied/slept in the van until my shift started. He made me frappuccinos better than Starbucks.

And that’s not even the half of it.

I can remember how Dad smelled when he walked in the door from a long, dirty day at work. I remember how he smelled after he got out of the shower. I remember how he smelled after mowing the grass for hours on end and when he got back from a run. I remember the smell of gas station coffee in his thermos wafting to the “way back” of the station wagon at 4:30 a.m. as we headed to Virginia for vacation.

I can’t remember the exact moment I realized how blessed I was (and still am) to have a dad like him. I’m sure it wasn’t an exact moment. It was little by little, piece by piece. Hearing stories of my friends’ dads never having time for them. Or hurting them. Or leaving their family. Teaching kids in Japan and in the inner city who had no idea who their dads were. Talking to friends in college whose relationship with their dads were non-existent.

It’s enough to make me weep. I wish I could go back in time and share some of my happy Dad-memories with them. Easy for me to say since it’s impossible. Now that I know how incredible he is, I kind of don’t want to share him with anyone. Except Mom. And Josh, Jess, Bethany, Stewart, Stephi, Daniel, and Gabe. And Livi, Anna, Ava, Ethan, Nina, Gavin, and Isabelle. I never felt like I had to compete with my siblings for Dad’s attention. He was always there. For all of us.

He’s generous. And giving. And unselfish. And puts everyone and their brother ahead of himself. He’s passionate about Jesus. And has a slight obsession with the Civil War. He’s smart. He’s witty. And yes, he can be embarrassing. But somehow, the older I get, the less embarrassing he gets. And I’m pretty sure he’s not the one who changed.

Dad, I love you. Happy 58th Birthday!! I know this day is bittersweet for you since your Daddy is in heaven celebrating his 89th birthday today. Someday you’ll celebrate your birthdays together again (but not for at least 40 more years!).

I kind of hoped this would be a more eloquent tribute, but you’re not really an eloquent kind of guy, so I think you’ll like it anyway. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being HANDS DOWN the best Dad a girl (and her brother and sisters) could ever want.

I LOVE YOU.  –Marla

Dad in a diaper and argyle socks. THIS is where I get my fashion sense.

Dad in front, Uncle Tim in back, sweet Grandma in between

Dad, Uncle Terry, Uncle Doug, Uncle Tim

The whole fam. Dad’s to the right of the only girl in the bunch.

If you know my dad (or even if you don’t!), please leave him a birthday greeting. I know he’ll love it!

37 thoughts on “dear old dad

  1. Krysten

    I am so surprised to find another person that watched/likes Little House on the Prarie and Anne of Green Gables. Gail S. gave me your first book and I love it. I’ve been married 7 months, and every few months I read the book again to evaulate how I’m doing. Thank you for a wonderful book for new wives.

  2. Stephanie

    I love our dad! All those things you said made me want to cry, and I was absolutely AMAZED at how I could literally smell all those things you mentioned in the smells paragraph. It’s incredible the way smells stay with you for years and years. Sometimes I feel like I love Dad so much I just don’t know what to do about it. Saying “I love you, Dad” just doesn’t seem to cut it. If only I had a way with words like you do. Unfortunately, I inherited Dad’s way with words. 🙂

    Thanks for the beautiful post, big sis! And thanks for sharing Dad with me. I appreciate it. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Robison

    Hay Forts in Grandpa’s barn – those were the best! I remember one year, the uncles put a “dungeon” in the hay fort that we would fall into as we crawled along in the dark. I think there was an uncle hidden in the dungeon who grabbed us a tickled us (until we cried “Uncle”? 😉 I don’t remember which uncle.

    I remember the moment I realized not everyone had a dad as wonderful as mine. It made me weep too. We are so blessed.

    My favorite memory of Uncle Ron is the summer I went to Myrtle Beach with your guys – he watched “Return to Me” probably about ten times that summer. That and the fact that he and my mom have SO many of the same little quirks, which I think is hilarious!

    Happy Birthday Uncle Ron! I love you!

  4. Brownie

    Happy Birthday, Ron.
    I do not doubt a word of Marla’s tribute because I am sure you have been all that and more. How wonderful to have a daughter who can state it all so eloquently. You are all blessed to have each other, and I am blessed to be one who has known you through many years.
    I am glad that Marla is so much aware of the blessings she has enjoyed. I had a fabulous dad too and he taught me to do many things and did so much for me. I still miss him although the Lord took him home to heaven 71 years ago.

  5. Sara Hall

    Happy Birthday Uncle Ron!!!!!!! I am sure that you will have a wonderful one because you have your wonderful wife by your side. Marla what a wonderful tribute. Truly a great dad. It is sad to think that not every dad gives piggy back rides and wheel barrow runs. Happy Birthday! I Love you Uncle Ron!

  6. Heather

    You know what is great about having a Dad like that? He teaches his daughter how she deserves to be treated by men. That she should be honored and respected. Happy Birthday to one of the prize Dads in the world!

  7. Cydney

    Happy Birthday Mr. Marlas dad.

    I do hope you are having an absolutely wonderful day today and every day.

    Loved this post. It really made me reflect on my own dad and how lucky I am as well.

  8. Rhonda S

    Happy Birthday! Your tribute made me cry. I have a real soft spot for Dads because my Dad is my real-life hero. Sounds like you are a hero yourself.

  9. Jamie Nygaard

    What special memories and neat stories you have of you and your dad. It made me a bit sad…..but thankful that your father is still around for you!

    Happy Birthday Marla’s daddy!!! 🙂

  10. Esther

    This is such a sweet sweet sweet gift to your dad on his birthday! I always thought the world of your dad, and your mom, and your entire family, and this just shows a little bit about why everyone loved you guys so much!!!

    Tell your dad I said HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

  11. Aunt T

    Happy Birthday to Marla’s Dad. Good tribute to your father…love and enjoy him while you still have him on this earth….oh by the way DAD good choice to say no to the first two and to Marla for choicing #3…we love him to and he has such a good name….TAVIANO…love it.

  12. texas_tea

    what an amazing tribute to your dad…happy birthday to him!!

    My dad is close to the same age, and I could have written the same words about him…which is an amazing blessing in this day and time! I’m hoping that when I’m that age, one of my (3) girls will have at least half of those things to say about me.

    thanks again, for sharing!!

    BTW – we are really enjoying your book!

  13. sarah gillard

    marla’s dad, thank you for being such a wonderful example of what christian fathers are supposed to be. my dad wasnt quite like you…not even close, but i still loved him. Happy happy birthday! marla, that was the first blos post that i have ever read that made me cry. i sent it to a guy friend of mine and he cried too! thank you for sharing your dad with us.

  14. Denise

    Marla – those pictures are awesome! I love them! And to Marla’s dad: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Marla’s daaaaaaaddddd. Happy Birthday to you!

    I hope I get to meet him someday!

  15. Kelly

    How sweet Marla! It’s nice to know your dad and be able to picture your family as you tell your stories. 😉 We are both blessed with sweet daddy’s and I can relate to much of what you said… 😀

    Happy Birthday Ron!

  16. sheila p.

    Happy Birthday to Marla’s dad!!!

    My dad’s birthday was last Monday. He would have been 66. We lost him back in November. I wish I still had my daddy here to laugh and pick at the grandkids. I would give anything to get those times back. So anyone that don’t have that connection with their dad is missing out.

  17. Jeni

    Happy Birthday to Marla’s Dad!!

    What a sweet post. Makes me think about all the great things about my Dad – teaching me to play baseball, explaining how we need to pay attention to the words we’re singing in church, letting me snuggle during thunderstorms, and spending hours and HOURS working on homework for Algebra 2.

    And I think it’s somewhere in the “Good Dad Contract” that they have to embarrass their children. It’s in the rules. 🙂

  18. Emily Rose

    What a sweet tribute to your dad, you have me in tears again. I was always daddy’s little girl and my daddy passed away three years ago. I miss him so much. I’m glad you show your dad how much you love him and I hope he has a wonderful birthday. Oh, and I loved the pictures! 🙂

  19. Charlotte

    Marla, What a wonderful tribute to your Dad! Made me cry and ever so thankful for the wonderful family I married into! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ron! Have yourself a great day! Your’re a great brother-in-law!

  20. okie mom

    how sweet Marla, I grew up with a similar type dad. I too thought everyone had a dad like that until I was in high school. Then I realized that even though my dad was by far the oldest of my friends dads and yet he was the one to take 14 giggling 13 year old girls “cruising” in his van at a slumber party, and the one who loaded his van and took a bunch of crazy high school girls to every out of town football game we wanted to go to…he even took a bunch of us sailing on regular saturday afternoons when noone else;s dad could be found.
    thanks for making me think about it…and huge happy Birthday wishes for your dad.

  21. Camy

    Happy Birthday Uncle Ron!!!! And Grandpa and Ronald Reagan- You know-Grandma still tells the Ronald Reagan part, everytime someone mentions your birthday! And Marla- what a wonderful tribute to your daddy! Aren’t we soooo blessed to be from the wonderful family that we are?(even if we are all a bit quirky) I love the quirkiness though- its how we know we belong! : )

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