It wasn’t always pretty.
The first several years of my life being a Daddy’s girl just came naturally to me. I was the princess of the family (some things never change, am I right?) and my Dad was as important as oxygen. Always there, every bedtime, every ball practice, every game, every loose tooth, every major sporting event on TV, etc.
Idyllic? Hardly. Perfect? Not even.
Parents who are on the fast track to divorce don’t make for a peaceful, perfect household. But even in the midst of what I remember as a chaotic season of life, my Dad never let go of me. Not when I talked back, not when I got in endless battles with my new step-mom, not when I wished my baby brother could go back to wherever he came from, not when I was selfish and sassy, not even when my sister & I screamed and hit and cried endlessly to the point that it had to be rage inducing to anyone within earshot.
Was he perfect? Nope.
But he was there. I didn’t know then what I know now: A lot of men at his age in his situation (early 30′s and newly divorced) would have used that as a chance to run. Start over. Be free. An every other weekend commitment leaving 26 days a month to focus on yourself. My Dad didn’t do that, and his decision to keep being my Daddy, not just my father, changed my life.
He kept working hard to help provide for everything we needed. He drove me around on days where I was not his “legal” responsibility – to school, to practice, to a friends house, to church, appointments, and back home again. He came up with money above his “legal” responsibility of child support whenever I needed it. He worried about me… my grades, my friendships, my sicknesses and injuries, my relationships, even when my physical absence in his home could have let him zone out to his TV or be consumed by his new wife & baby boy.
I became a teenager and my quick temper (a gift from my Dad) combined with my new found teenage hormones forced my family to live with an absolute crazy person. Let’s just say two hot tempered people with similar personalities under the same roof is a recipe for near disaster. I yelled, he yelled back. He would get so made spit would be flying out of his mouth as he yelled, and instead of realizing I was pushing him over the edge I would scream into his face “YOU’RE SPITTING ON ME!” and he would scream back “I’M GOING TO DO MORE THAN SPIT IF YOU DON’T SETTLE DOWN!” and it wouldn’t phase me in the slightest. I pushed him to his breaking point over, and over, and over. I didn’t care how many times I got the belt, or yelled at, or raised his blood pressure. I was the definition of spoiled brat and my poor Dad fought with me every time. Maybe it’s crazy, but there’s a piece of me that looks back and laughs at so many of those tense, borderline unsafe moments, because what my Dad COULD HAVE done is ignore me in all my teenage angst. He could have walked away, refused to engage, and created distance between us. But he fought me time after time, and maybe fighting isn’t the best way to deal with an irrational teenager, but it did say to me something that has never left me: I’d rather fight with you day after day than leave you. You make me angry and I’d like to beat the teenager out of you sometimes, but you’re worth the fight.
Thankfully I grew out of (most of) my irrational & angry teenage years, and adulthood has looked something like this:
College, round one – Dad packed me up & moved me in, then let me come back home a week later when I realized I just wasn’t ready to be on my own yet.
College, round two – Dad packed me up & paid for my car so I could go away to my dream school. He drove 8 hours round trip to pick me up for Thanksgiving when my car needed work. He also paid for the work on my car because I was a poor college student.
Big Move, round one – I moved to Ohio (10 hours away) on a whim. Dad packed me up, loaded our cars, and followed me the whole way there. Moved me in and drove away, letting me grow up even though his preference would be that I’d live in our hometown forever.
New Adult Job, round one – Dad celebrating new opportunities with me, supporting me moving back to our home state, helping me grieve the loss of my Grandpa even as he grieved the loss of his Dad.
New Adult Job, round two – Moving cross country this time, all the way to southwest Florida. I left home at 2am and Dad watched me leave the driveway with my tiny little Ford Escort (the one he basically paid for, even though I swore I could afford it), totally loaded down with basically everything I owned. I drove 20 hours straight to Florida, non-stop, all by myself, no cruise control, the only window I could see out of was my windshield and drivers window. And my Dad? He stayed awake the entire time from when I left til when I arrived safely, following me on a map the entire way, calling me every couple hours to check in.
The common denominator? My sweet Dad has participated in every significant life event. He’s never been a spectator of my life, always an active part of it. He’s there to pack me up or send me off. He’s there to answer questions or pay my car payment when I was an irresponsible college student. He’s the first person I call when my car does something strange or the Cardinals win or lose or I’m bored driving to or from work. He’s the first and last face I see when I come home for visits and the one who knows my favorite meals and the one who makes the best breakfasts. If I have a problem? It isn’t just mine, my Dad enters into it with me to help me solve it. If I call him? He answers. (To this day, I can only think of 3 reasons I’ve ever had a phone call go to voicemail – 1. His phone is on silent or in the truck while he watches my brother play sports. 2. He’s in the bathroom. 3. He didn’t hear it. (bless his hard of hearing heart)) He even answers when he’s working or golfing or mid-meal or mid-tv show. My Dad is generous with his time, and that’s probably my favorite thing about him. I never have to wonder if he’s going to be available when I need him. He always has been, and I have no reason to believe he won’t always be.
The running joke in our family is that I’m Dad’s favorite. I may or may not have started the rumor, but my siblings have picked it up and believe it, so that’s all that matters now. Whether or not that’s true, (I choose to believe it is ;), the truth remains that my Dad is MY favorite, and I am so, so grateful for the strongest, bravest, smartest, most kind, generous, Dad in the whole world.
I love you, Daddy!
**This is the first in a series about my family. Somebody hold me accountable to that! I have so many words about each family member that I need to get out so that they will forever know how much of a FAN I am of each of them!**