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!