I've been a Daddy's girl for as long as I can remember. We don't get to see each other as often as either of us would like, but I know he is there. I am the person I am because of my dad. His quiet strength and willingness to let both my brother and I forge ahead and experience life, even when our know it all decisions weren't exactly the best ones, has made me a more thoughtful person...especially as I approach the time in my life with my own daughters leaving the nest. Even though it's been hard for me to begin the letting go process, I know it's what has to be. I know also that my life will go on and that a whole other wonderful stage of life awaits me. This is a time for celebration, not sadness.
I decided for Father's Day that it's been far too long since I've told my dad how much he means to me...he has helped me grow into the person that I am today and I want him to know it.
The following life lessons are just a few of the ones I've absorbed from being my father's daughter.
I've learned resilience and persistence from my dad. Honestly I'm not sure if I would have finished my PhD if it wasn't for him in the background...not pushing...but just there...in the back of my mind patiently standing out of sight. It never even entered his mind that I might fail. Even during the lowest times of the process, quitting was never an option for me...don't get me wrong; he didn't pressure; he just had so much confidence that it was impossible for me to ever imagine failing either.
I've learned to truly be myself...to be the person I am and stand for what I think...even if that's not what everybody else thinks.
I've learned that to be the best partner for someone, I must first be the best individual I can be. I have to be able to take care of myself and not expect anyone else to take care of me. A strong relationship is one where both people take care of each other, rather than one person pulling all the weight.
My dad has taught me that God's love is unconditional, agape love...there's nothing I'm ever going to do to change it. My dad's love is that way for me as well...and that same love is handed down from me to my children.
I learned gardening from my dad...my dad used to have the biggest garden each spring and summer and he worked it day and night...I remember trying to find other places to go so I wouldn't have to work in the garden :/ I remember sitting in the garage surrounded by baskets/buckets of corn, shucking, cleaning cob after cob after cob. Delicious, juicy, unbelievable corn that we'd eat all Winter. I was a little like the Little Red Hen in those days...didn't want to do any of the work, but was at the table for every meal.
I learned to enjoy outside, to keep my eyes open and my mouth shut so I won't miss anything
to investigate my surroundings and see the clues the animals leave...the beaver gnawings on trees, their dams in streams, the marks on the trees where the bucks have marked their territory, the varieties of trees and plants of our state as well as its wildlife...and one particular lesson that I probably take to heart more than any is conservation of our natural resources.
I learned to enjoy reading and the library from my dad...I actually designed the bookshelves in my own home using my dad's as an example. My dad took me hunting once but brought me a book because he knew I would have trouble being quiet...The book he selected to keep me from getting bored was something by James Fenimore Cooper (The Deer Hunter, The Last of the Mohicans), one of his favorite authors. Funny, Dad. I think I was 12.
My dad chose a much better selection another time when he read aloud to me The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford...one chapter each night until the chapter that ends with the cat being swept down the river. I was so distraught about the fate of the cat that my dad read an extra chapter that night just so I would know that cat was ok.I spent a lot of time in the library with my dad as he was working on his PhD...he would leave me in the Reading Room and go off to do his research (you could actually do that then with no worries). The library to this day is a place of comfort, quiet, and peace for me...and it's actually a place where I prefer to be alone.
I've learned to "Keep on keepin' on." Period. From him I've learned that life is constantly changing and that's the way it's supposed to be. To expect anything different is to set yourself up for disappointment. From my dad I've learned to embrace each stage in our lives and move forward...no need to look back. The mistakes we make are ours; we own up to those mistakes, make restitution if necessary and move forward. But, don't wallow in it. Get over it and go on.
As tough as my dad can be, he has a very sensitive side as well.
As tough as my dad can be, he has a very sensitive side as well.
My dad's father died when I was a freshman in college...I remember my dad pulling up to the sidewalk to pick me up to see my Pop for the last time. As distraught as I was when my Pop passed away that day, I was stunned at my own father's tears as we drove home later that night.
My dad and my Pop had not always had a friendly relationship. It was no secret; even I was aware of it growing up. As he pulled over on the side of the highway, my daddy shared with me his last final moments with his daddy that night:
Daddy and the rest of his family knew the end was near...they each had stayed beside him and took turns saying good-bye, telling him how much they loved him, how much they would miss him, how much he meant to them.
As my Pop struggled to breathe those last few hours my daddy was with his daddy alone. My daddy took his daddy's hand and said, "It's ok, Daddy...I'm ok...we're ok...no more pain, no more anger, no more sadness."
Listening to my daddy, for the first time in hours my Pop relaxed his chest and quit struggling. He didn't pass away right then, but when he did finally leave us, he did so peacefully.
I learned that night that even my tough, seemingly invincible daddy felt sadness sometimes. I knew I never wanted to cause that sadness and I wanted to be able to prevent him from ever feeling it again if I could. I learned from my dad that night that we choose who we want as part of our lives. When we choose those people, we love them. Period. We don't try to make them something other than what we are and we don't try to play games. We won't always get along and we may even need some time apart...but we can always lay down the hatchet and we can always come home. There's no shame in that.
I know how blessed I am to have my father in my life, and I thank God for my father's love every single day.
I love you, Daddy.
Happy Father's Day!