[I wrote the following piece almost 4 years ago about my Dad and the way that he raised me. I will be expounding more on him at a storytelling show here in Chicago. If you are around, come check it out! Serving the Sentence, March 12, 8:30pm, Heartland Cafe]
I’m going to get this out right here and now: I’m a Daddy’s Girl. I feel the need to capitalize this because I know what this may connote: that I’m spoiled princess and no other man will live up to an idealized view of my father. The truth is this is probably partially, if not wholly, true.
Before I hit puberty, my dad was the absolute apple of my eye. I followed him everywhere and he always invited me along. My dad was such a stickler for going to bed at a certain time, he would be happy if all lights were out by 8:00pm for everyone, including my mom. Therefore, some of my favorite memories of him involved waking up in the middle of the night.
By choice and before the sun would come up, I would accompany him to pray in a side chapel at the neighborhood Catholic church that has been a part of my family since he was a boy. As he prayed silently, I would nap on the bench, only to be somewhat disturbed by the creaks and groans that I could hear coming from the darkened interior of the rest of the church. He would always calmly reassure me with, “That’s just the building settling” and I would fall back asleep. He also taught me what it meant to be truly “Christian”, to care about the people in the world around us and especially, care about the people who were suffering. His acts of unselfish and humble generosity made an indelible impression on me and why I believe that fighting for human rights is a lifetime goal.
Other times my dad, the amateur astronomer, would take us all to the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers. There we would all lay next to each other on a musky-smelling camping blanket. My older brother, mom, dad, and I would look for shooting stars in the coldness of a late Texas night. My dad taught us how to identify constellations and all that I learned then I still retain to this very day.
Among many many other things, my dad is also a mountain man. He is the camping Pied Piper. Kids always want to come on his hikes because you never know what piece of nature might be revealed or what cool arachnids you might meet along the way. Not only does my dad love nature, but he loves learning about it and teaching anyone who will listen. He is an instructor for a camping class at a community college and his students call him “fearless”. He is apt at plucking snakes from trees and always ridiculously prepared for disaster and adventure alike.
I think that the only thing that kept my relationship intact with my father during the aforementioned puberty was the fact that he is a Mr. Fix-It and an original DIY-er. He had the patience to teach me how to drive a manual transmission car (even though I once threw the keys at him in frustration), he also taught me how to change the oil, change ALL of the tires, and know how to diagnose problems. He is the reason why I wanted to become a mechanic, if the librarian thing didn’t work out.
I have no idea why, because I had absolutely no reason for it, but I became a very angry teenager and acted hatefully in my relationship with my parents. I cringe at the thought of how many times I screamed, “I HATE YOU!” right into their loving patient faces. This is even more horrible because I knew that I was surrounded by people with abusive, alcoholic, absent, or careless parents and I had none of these reasons. Thankfully, I finally came to my senses when I hit 20, when I realized that my parents were people and how much they sacrificed to give me a good life and how absolutely lucky I was to have their love and support.
I love and adore my father for his patience, his thirst for knowledge, for showing me a fantastic example of how a man can be loving and caring and gentle. He is also so strong that everyone in his presence feels like everything will be okay and everyone will be safe and that we will all get through this together. I am so glad that I know this in enough time to treasure every moment we have together. I sincerely hope I will meet a man who will be live up to this very tall order, because if I were to ever have kids, I would want nothing less for them.