My sentiments from Father’s Day of last year remain true. In fact, you can go read ‘em again here and see a lot of reasons that I absolutely love my dad.
But today I thought I’d share something different–a few concrete memories that I have, just me and my dad, that I am absolutely certain have definitely shaped my life in both subtle and more conspicuous ways.
One of my earliest memories is one of fishing with my dad–something we did often (and lately I’ve been really wanting to start again…maybe trying to relive my childhood?). In this particular instance, Dad was fishing and I (and I think my sisters, though it’s a bit hazy) were playing on some large rocks by the water’s edge. I spotted a little fish trapped in the rocks and stuck my hand down to pet it while excitedly telling Dad what I’d found. Next thing I know, I was body-checked clear into the parking lot (okay, possibly an exaggeration) as Dad realized I was sticking my little baby fingers into the mouth of a gigantic snapping turtle.
Two lessons learned here: I might not have been the brightest little kid; and Dad was there to protect me.
Another favorite memory of mine: going to the soup kitchen with Dad when I was probably seven or eight, and serving dinner to the homeless while wearing a baseball cap. Unfortunately, I was mistaken for a little boy several times and have been called “little fella” lovingly by my dad since then more times than I care to admit.
Lesson here: I wasn’t the cutest kid either. Luckily Dad’s love doesn’t depend on that.
I also remember frequent instances of going to SU basketball games with Dad, and having to go a bit early so we could hand out extra tickets from work to families that looked like they’d love to have some free tickets.
Lesson learned: be generous.
Here’s another one–Mom and Dad used to take us on day trips to Ithaca falls to splash around in some gorgeous waterfall pools, where no one else went and I’m not even entirely sure we were supposed to be. We also went on hikes in our own backyard, to the beach, to Skaneateles Lake, and basically everywhere else we could in the greater Syracuse area.
Lesson here: you don’t have to be rich to have beautiful weekends with your family. Nature’s bounty, folks.
When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I had a week or two long bout with severe acid reflux. I was having a lot of stomach pain, especially at night, and wasn’t eating very much. After a few long days of this (including a trip to the ER), I was driving home from church solo with Dad (yes, we had so many kids/kid’s friends we had to take two vans to church most weeks), and as we passed a McDonald’s I said out loud, “I think I could eat some chicken nuggets”.
I’m pretty sure we did a 120 degree turn at 65 miles an hour, and I was pulling out of the drive through with a six-piece faster than you can say “praise the Lord”. I think those nuggets healed me.
This lesson is about spontaneity.
On a totally separate note, I also remember yelling at my Dad as he worked in the garden that he ruined my life and I hated him because he wouldn’t let me go out on a date alone with a boy. It actually pains me to admit that I saw him actually shed a tear or two, and still felt 100% convinced that he was too stubborn and conservative to see that he was, in fact, irreparably harming my future. And this coming from a man who does not cry very often.
Turns out he was right and I was wrong.
I think we all know the lesson on this one.
Fast forward to my 20th birthday, after a series of very difficult and emotional breakups with a boyfriend that I know was bad news but I had managed to stay with for a year. Dad offered to take me as a plus one to a work trip to Disneyland, Florida, where he got to witness me moping around and feeling like, once again, my world was ending because of a boy. On the night of my birthday, he took me to dinner at Epcot in a French-themed restaurant, where I ordered escargot for the first time but still couldn’t help but get teary at the thought of never seeing this stupid guy again.
On the boat ride home, I noticed that Dad had tears in his eyes and I felt incredibly guilty that I ruined the trip by pining for a totally decayed relationship. Dad looked at me and said,
“It makes me sad to know that you aren’t just my little girl anymore–I can’t snap my fingers and fix everything with a trip to Disneyland.”
That was a very powerful moment for me, and I think one of the first times that I began to understand how difficult it must be for a parent to see their child grow up and experience the bad, the crazy, and the unexpected. I probably won’t fully understand that feeling until I have my own kids. But I can tell you, seeing my dad get emotional and hearing him say that showed me the true force of a father’s love in a way that I hadn’t yet experienced. I’d been seeing the love all along, of course. I was no stranger to a father’s love. But this was my first glimpse of the behind-the-scenes struggle that comes with a father-daughter relationship.
So what’s the lesson here?
I am so incredibly lucky to have been blessed with a father who taught me to be kind, generous, spontaneous, and loving. Though I’m sure he’d tell you that he’s not perfect (and he’s probably embarrassed about all these stories), I think he couldn’t have done a better job.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.