Today is the day to celebrate all that is awesome about our fathers. The greeting card companies say so. But as I am a horrible daughter who was too lazy to buy stamps, I’ll just have to write a blog post about my dad in hopes that my stepmom reads it aloud to him.
My earliest memory of my dad is visiting him in the hospital. When I was little—I mean, really little—my dad broke his leg. Well, a horse broke his leg. Because the horse fell on him. Anyway, Dad’s leg got broken, pretty bad. He had a compound fracture in his femur; the doctor told him it takes the same amount of force to break a crowbar as it takes to break that bone. So he was rushed to some big hospital in a faraway town (because ours didn’t even have a clinic, much less a hospital), and when he was a little less blood-and-gutsy we kids got to go visit him. I remember this because it was my first experience with an elevator. I saw the doors open and close, open and close as we walked into the hospital, and once I was informed of the name and purpose of the device, I proclaimed, “I don’t want to go on the elegator!” I don’t remember why, but I thought it was some sort of mechanized alligator and flat out refused to go inside. So someone—I think it was my uncle—got the privilege of walking tiny-me up what felt like a million stairs so I could see my daddy.
My father is actually the person from whom I learned to tell these rambling yet amusing autobiographical anecdotes. He’s always been a storyteller, and even if they’re not that funny I find myself laughing at least at Dad’s enthusiasm. And he always has plenty of stories to tell because he’s always getting into strange and silly shenanigans—another trait I just happened to acquire in the family gene pool.
Dad was in the air force after high school, from which he has fun stories about staying with a Mormon family in Utah (“Save a piece for Jesus”) and riding his motorcycle cross-country. When he met my mom, and up until he broke his leg, my dad was a bull rider in the rodeo.
Yup, that’s my daddy.
After the broken leg, Dad farmed on the land behind our house, raising everything from horses to cows to goats to pot-bellied pigs throughout my childhood. In what little spare time he had, he hunted and trapped various wild things that roamed the woods near our house; I’ll never forget the time I came home to an angry, caged raccoon hissing at me in the backyard. He also hunted, which led to the fond memory of the time he cleaned a deer by hanging it from our swing set and I didn’t eat venison for almost a year. Oddly enough, some of my fondest memories of time spent with my dad are of us cooking deer-steak together; he’d let me tenderize the meat with this little metal mallet. I used to beat the crap out of those steaks. It was so much fun.
My dad is the hardest working human being I have ever seen. For as long as I can remember, he’s worked in the machine shop of one steel plant or another, and always came home greasy and drenched in sweat. (I don’t think I’ve ever told him this, but I’m still oddly comforted by that combination of scents.) I’ve never understood what my dad actually does at work, even after the dozens of times he’s explained it to me, but I know it involves cutting pipes with fancy machines. Even when he got laid off, he’d do whatever random odd jobs he could come up with to make sure we were taken care of–I remember this one time he tore down a storage shed for someone, which just happened to be filled with a million cans of Campbell’s soup that we got to keep. As a (mostly) self-sufficient adult, I now understand just how much he sacrificed so we kids could go on church trips or have the toys we wanted for Christmas, so my mom could go back to school. I understand just how expensive I must have been with all my childhood clumsiness and ER visits and susceptibility to infection. But Dad never complained; he saw it as his job to provide for his family.
Now that I’ve really gotten to know him as an adult, I see how much I take after my dad. And I’m not just talking about my eyes and my smile and my feet.
My dad is often quiet and thoughtful. He loves to tell stories. He loves to sing (even if he doesn’t do it very well). He loves to laugh. He has a hard time entertaining himself; he always needs to be doing something. When you talk to him about something he loves his whole face lights up. He’s silly and has a great, quirky sense of humor.
My dad gets my need for physical, and sometimes emotional, space. He’s one of the only people I can sit with quietly, no need for conversation if we don’t really have anything important to say. He doesn’t constantly bombard me with affection, and I can see that’s not from a forced sense of restraint for my benefit (sorry you clingers in the family, but I can tell how hard you’re trying not to leech onto me every second). Dad just understands that a hug and occasionally putting his hand on top of mine is enough, that it effectively conveys every ounce of what he feels. I’m sure he’d like to see more of me, but he doesn’t badger me about when I’m coming home. If something’s bothering me, he leaves me be, knowing if it’s something to do with him I’ll come to him when I’m ready. If it were practical (i.e., if I didn’t have to drive all over Northeast Texas to see everyone), I’d probably stay at his house for the duration of every visit. Staying with my dad is low key; I don’t have to stress about it. We don’t have to try and make every second count, filling the day with activities; we can just hang out.
We may not always agree on religion or politics or the amount of fun inherent in fishing; I may not always agree with his actions or choices. But I know my dad always does what he thinks is right. He follows his conscience and does what he believes to be best. And I hope that when he doesn’t agree with my actions or choices, he knows that he taught me well enough to do the same. I do know that he’s proud of me; he’s said so a time or two.
So Dad, if my stepmom is reading this to you, happy father’s day. You are the best dad I can imagine having, and I love you.