To My Dad. . .


He grew up Catholic, my Dad. Like, really, Catholic. You know, statue of Mary in the yard, Rosary beads in his mothers hands, alter boy, confession, seven brothers and sisters, Catholic school–he was raised in a Catholic home. And while he and my Mom didn’t raise us in the Catholic church, the foundations and traditions of my Dad’s upbringing never left him. Some of my earliest memories include taking the 45 minute drive from our house to my Dad’s childhood home where he would pick up my grandma and take her to church. This was followed by a stop by the cemetery where we would stand at his Dad’s graveside for a few moments and then it was either out to breakfast or a walk around the “res” (The Reservoir)–whatever my grandma wanted. I would lag behind my Dad and my grandma, panting my way around that four mile loop, while they stayed in step with each other, no doubt debating politics all the way. In truth, I was along for the ride, the time with my Dad, and if I was really lucky–I got a breakfast out.

Despite the fact that my siblings and I were not raised in the Catholic church, sometime during my adolescent years, I joined my Dad in the practice of Lent. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, my Dad and I would give up something (him-snacking, me-pop, pizza, fries or some combination of junk that made up my adolescent diet). I don’t remember a whole lot of those weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter. I don’t remember the “suffering” and the “going without” (because I NEEDED pop and pizza), but there is one thing I do remember.

I remember breaking our fast.

When Lent was over, my Dad and I would climb into the car and we would break our “fast” together.

Together.

I remember the end of one particular “fast”. My Dad and I drove to the Dairy Queen. He ordered me french fries. I’m not sure what he got or if he even ordered anything. I just remember driving to a park, getting out of the car and sitting on top of a picnic table eating french fries with my Dad. It was a cold spring day. And it was cloudy. I’m guessing I was shivering from the wind. I would bet money that the french fries were cold as soon as they hit the air. I don’t remember any of that, though. I remember sitting in a deserted park, on top of a picnic table, with my Dad.

I remember my Dad being there.

Thank you for always being there, Dad.

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During my senior year track season, I developed a stress fracture in my femur before our regional meet. My coach had a remedy–get a shot of cortisone, it will feel better, you will be able to run the meet.

I went home and excitedly told my Dad about my coaches plans. All I need is a shot and I can run! Problems are solved, I told my Dad. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t even have to think about it. No, he told me. Absolutely not. Cortisone will only mask the pain–you could damage yourself more.

I cried.
I begged.
I sobbed.
I pleaded.
I got angry.
I didn’t understand.
I thought my Dad didn’t care.

I sat out the remainder of that season. Now I see it. Now I understand. Now, I know he cared more about my future than about my next meet. Now, I understand that he did the hard thing. He did the best thing. He saw what my adolescent mind couldn’t see–he saw the future.

Thank you for seeing around the corners when I couldn’t see, Dad.

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When I was in grade school, my Dad came home from work and told me about an incident that occurred when a person from the power company came to his office. He described THE incident, slowly, deliberately, and with great detail. I don’t remember all the details except my Dad’s brewing anger. I remember the way he described that he had grabbed the power company workers collar. I remember the way he told me that he slammed the worker against the wall of his office and screamed at him. As he told the story, my knees began to buckle. . . tears sprung to my eyes. . . my face turned red. . .I wanted to scream.

You see, that worker? Well, he was my best friend’s Dad. My dad had not only yelled at my best friends dad, but had also grabbed him by the collar, and slammed him against his office wall.

I was mortified. I was crying. I am already mourning the loss of my best friend.

My Dad let the silence sit between us for awhile. After a few moments he looked at me and in a low, calm voice he said it. . . Appprrriiiilllll Foooooolssss. . .

It was April 1st. He got me.

Again.

Every year he got me.

Thank you for teaching me to laugh at myself, Dad. 

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When I was in graduate school, I had to take a licensure test in order to practice counseling. I had scheduled the test for a Monday morning and the weekend before, I went to my Dad’s house to bury myself in my studies. I spent most of the weekend in my sisters old bedroom trying to cram as much information into my brain as possible. Every now and then, my Dad would woo me out of the room with a meal or coffee. During those times, I mused to him about the doubts I had even taking the test. I had already begun to dip my toes into photography and I wasn’t sure that counseling was where I belonged.

You don’t have to take the test, he told me. Do what you want to do. You will be supported no matter what you decide.

I was nervous about the test. I was nervous about finding the testing center. I was nervous about the direction of my life.

My Dad couldn’t pass the test for me and my Dad couldn’t decide the direction of my life–but there was one thing he could do.

I remember hearing his voice as I was over-studying in the upstairs bedroom, “Summer, why don’t you take a break and drive to the testing center so you know where you are going tomorrow.”

So, that’s what we did. We climbed in the car and he drove me an hour away from his house and showed me exactly where I would be taking the test. And then he drove me home.

He couldn’t pass the test for me. He couldn’t decide the direction of my life. But he could show me the way to get there.

Dad, thank you for always showing me the way.

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I have endless stories about my Dad. The things he said. The things he did. The lessons he taught me. The lessons he still teaches me. In reality, my words fall so short in expressing all that I feel for the man who I am so lucky to call “Dad”.

Today, let me simply say this. . . Dad, I am so grateful to you. So grateful for all the things you taught me. For the laughter that filled our home. For the stories. The lessons. Thank you for being consistent through every storm. Thank you for not letting the waves shatter our family.

Dad, I am who I am today, because you are who you are. Because you have always been who you are.

You’re one of the best people I know, Dad, and I am so proud to be your daughter.

I love you, Dad.

Happy Birthday,

Summer

 

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