As Father’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn to the man who has done, and continues to do, the most to shape who I am today. A man who, over these last 36 years, has made me laugh, taught me my values and occasionally driven me nuts. A true original. My Dad.
My Dad isn’t like a lot of the other father’s I knew growing up. Unlike some friend’s dads who seemed to consider their kid’s lives as an afterthought, my Dad always took an interest in what my siblings and I were doing. He knew our friends, he was our biggest fan in whatever we chose to do and was always very willing to give the gift of his time.
From the day I was born until I was in my mid-20’s, my Dad was a police officer. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be called away in the middle of the night or to find out that the guy who said “Hi” to him at Burger King was someone who he had sent to the penitentiary for burglary. My Dad took a great deal of pride in his work. He loved it and I think he did it because he truly wanted to help people. (Although the guy at Burger King may have had a different opinion.)
My Dad is a very kind man but, as an ex-cop, he can also be a little intimidating. He once avoided potential road rage when the belligerent driver of another car followed us into the parking lot of a Putt-Putt, only to apologize and drive away when he saw my Dad get out of the car. My brother and I have decided that if we ever had to take on my Dad, we would have to surprise him, and at least one of us would have to be wielding a pillow case full of door knobs.
While my Dad sometimes refers to me as the wheelbarrow, in that I only work when pushed, he has a work ethic that won’t quit. In all his years as a policeman, I can only recall him calling in sick once. A day on which he passed a kidney stone that, judging from the sounds I heard from the next room, was roughly the size of an avocado.
Although his sense of humor has gotten goofier and goofier over the years, my Dad is a very funny man. Full of stories and jokes, he is the center of most every party that he attends. My Mom often says that friends make sure that he is invited to their parties and then let her know that she can come too. While we may roll our eyes at the same old jokes, when he has a fresh audience….watch out.
My Dad is like a human waterboard. He can get anyone to talk. If you meet him, be prepared for a barrage of questions the likes of which you have never seen. Questions that run the gamut from “What do you do for a living?” to my family’s favorite, “Did you get any surprises for Christmas?” (Which was asked of someone in May) People tell him things within the first 20 minutes of meeting him that they have probably never told anyone in their life. If you put my Dad in a room with Marcel Marceau, he would walk out with a vacation invitation. People don’t open up to him because of some Dale Carnegie tactic or self-help book trick, it is because my Dad is truly interested in what they have to say. My Dad makes people feel special because he listens.
He treats everyone he meets like a friend and is the least self-conscious person I know. I am fairly confident that he hasn’t purchased a single item of clothing for himself since he got out of the Navy, and will wear the same promotional giveaway t-shirt for years until my Mom mysteriously loses it in the wash. He once cut the grass in a “Me So Horny” t-shirt that someone gave him as a joke for his 50th birthday and greeted some high school friends of my sister that had come to pick her up. That t-shirt was never seen again.
My Dad grew up with parents that he could never count on, and at some point he decided that he would be the type of parent that you can always count on. I can call on him any time day or night and I know that he will be there for me. His word is gold. If he tells you that he is going to do something, it will get done. Unless it is an ill-conceived Father/Son project to revive a junkyard Camaro which came and went on the same tow truck, and spent the two years in between as wheeled storage unit in the garage. My Dad’s self-taught automotive skills and my brother’s and my proficiency at holding flashlights and handing over screwdrivers just wasn’t enough to bring it back to life. In all fairness, I would have probably just ended up sideswiping a Wendy’s drive thru anyway.
As an adult, I can now look back and really appreciate all of the sacrifices that my Mom and Dad made for our family. In addition to being a cop, my Dad worked a never-ending array of part-time jobs to make sure that my siblings and I could go to private school and to always be able to go somewhere on vacation. There may not have been 4-Star accommodations, and my sister may have had to tell theme parks that she was 11 until she was well past voting age, but I have been all over this great land. You have not truly witnessed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains until you have seen it from the back window of a beige Datsun 210 puttering up the side of Pike’s Peak.
My brother says that if my Dad ever became famous, I could get rich impersonating him. At the very least I could be doing two shows a night with Tony Orlando in Branson. What started as a trick that I sometimes used to startle my brother when he wasn’t looking or to generally annoy my sister (but unconvincingly sold to my Dad as a loving tribute) has, over the last several years, turned into an involuntary action. I sound more and more like my Dad every day. But as I have recently gotten married, and look to start a family of my own, I only hope that I can continue to do the best impression of my Dad that is possible.
Happy Father’s Day Dad.