For My Father, On Father’s Day

15 Jun

Every year on Father’s Day I stand in the card aisle struggling to find one that really captures the essence of my father. There’s a stereotypical image of a “dad” in America. Every card seems to have something to do with grilling, beer, farts, and tools. Clearly in our culture when we think “dad,” we think Tim the Tool Man Taylor. But my dad has never been that guy. He’s never been the “greets my dates at the door with his shotgun” kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong; he’s great on the grill, likes beer as much as the next guy and is most definitely protective of those he holds dear. He just does it in a “strong and silent” kind of way.

As I mentioned in my mother’s day post, my parents struggled financially. My father has worked two, sometimes three, jobs for as long as I can remember. It would be understandable if he had been more of a fringe figure in my childhood since he was sometimes at work more than he was home, but on the contrary, there’s not a single important moment of my life that my dad hasn’t made time for. From the father-daughter sock hop in Girl Scouts to the time he agreed to coach my hopeless softball team and every conference, concert, performance and camping trip in between, he has always been there. He may have been sleep deprived and coffee fueled, but he was there with a smile on his face.

The man worked tirelessly to give us everything we wanted. I remember him agreeing to take me to the store on the day after Christmas to do an exchange for whatever it was I absolutely had to have that day. We took a number and sat on a bench for an impossibly long time waiting for our turn to arrive. While we sat there, my father smiled the entire time. I, being crabby and impatient like usual, asked him why he was so happy. “Andrea,” he said, “I’m just happy to be sitting.”

My father has set the impossibly high standard by which I judge all men. There is nothing, literally nothing, that he wouldn’t do for his family. He was the only sibling out of four to stay in Minnesota and support his mother until the very end. He has taken that whole “in sickness and in health” thing to heart, sticking by my mother’s side through too many ups and downs in their relationship to count. A lesser man would have split under the pressure, but he has taught me that  love is something worth fighting for, and marriage is a commitment to be taken seriously. My dad has always, always, treated my mother with the utmost respect. No, scratch that. He has always, always, treated everyone with the utmost respect. He taught me at a very early age through both his words and his actions to follow Thumper’s rule (although with better grammar), “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” And the things he would do to make my brother and me happy… The man even dressed in drag once in an attempt to win me *NSYNC tickets. Father of the year? You betcha. More like father of the century. It goes without saying that my own husband, father of my children, has his work cut out for him if he is to ever live up to the legacy that is My Dad.

There’s been a long-running joke in our family that my dad’s real name is “Saint Stephen.” We laugh about it, but the truth is that he does possess many of the qualities the saints are revered for. Compassionate, selfless, dedicated, loyal. Willing to give his everything for those he loves. My father is without a doubt the best man I have ever known.

So today on this day when we celebrate our fathers, I want to say thank you. Thank you, Dad, for never giving up on our family. Thank you for your humor, your support and your sacrifices. I appreciate you more than I can ever express in words. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

dad

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