I bet you don’t know this, but one of my favorite sounds in the entire world is the resounding “HA!” that you exclaim after I say something funny. That simple confirmation of my hilarity is utterly important to my self worth. It tells me my sarcasm soaked comments and over-the-top self-righteousness are positive parts of the daughter you intended to raise.
I’ve realized that I too, make that very same noise when I’m splendidly surprised by a person’s humor. I like that I get that from you. I may look like mom, but I get a lot of things from you. I get my sense of adventure and my willingness to do anything to entertain others.
Speaking of entertaining others… mom actually told me a story recently, one from before you were dating, about you pulling quite the stunt (congrats, it totally got her attention). It was a staff party and you had printed out a little stack of paper slips and were running around the room handing them out to everyone. It was your phone number. You were letting them know you were available and asked if they weren’t, if they could pass the information along or leave the slip in a bathroom. The image I see in my mind of you offering your number around a room like candy is hysterical and I am honestly disappointed I’ve never tried it before! (It has to be better than signing up for ChristianMingle.com, right?!)
Since it’s Father’s Day, I also want to recognize the guiding force you’ve been in my life as you’ve gone so far above and beyond what I think many people expect dads to be. I honestly did not realize how fortunate I was to have you until I started talking about my childhood and childrearing with my coworkers. To them, the mother is the primary caregiver. The mother is the one who has the special bond with her babies. But for me, my youngest memories feature you. Grabbing for your hand at the farmers market, you taking me to swimming lessons, teaching us the wrong animal noises as you read to us every night, you cradling me in your lap while I’m sick, coaching my elementary soccer team, sending handwritten notes and accompanying drawings with our homemade lunches everyday for 12 years.
Mom told me something else about you that struck a chord with me as I listened to my male coworkers speak about their interests and hobbies and about kids being aside from that. She said that when Erin and I were born, you wanted your free time to be spent with us. She didn’t have to ask you to “take a turn” or to sell your “boy toys” because you were already there. All in. You didn’t want to be anywhere else or doing anything that took you away from us.
I cannot put into words how important that knowledge is to me. That single fact is worth the world, because I know we were your world.
Now that I’m an adult, your advice and comfort has proven even more important. Knowing that you’re always just a phone call away, ready and willing to listen and to provide your best guidance counselor expertise is imperative for my sanity. Your emails of encouragement after one of my essays is published feels like a long distance hug.
It’s important to me too, that we’ve seen each other at some of our worst. That we can stand face to face and see each other as humans and love each other endlessly because of that, not in spite of it. You will always be my dad but it’s nice to know you’re also just a guy who’s done his best. Because of that, you’ve taught me that regardless of the wrong turns I make, I too, will be a good person. That’s who you and mom raised me to be.
I love you. I’m grateful for you. I’m sorry I don’t say that enough.
Happy Father’s Day, Johnny.
Ali-bo-bali (aka your favorite youngest daughter)