For My Dad

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. – George Herbert
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I grew up believing that life was like a PG movie and that the worst thing that ever happened to anyone was when Josh tried to get rid of Buddy in Air Bud:

I grew up thinking that all adults, and especially parents, were perfect.  One day, when I became an adult, I would magically become perfect, just like my parents; that is how the world worked.  Everything in the world fit in a tidy little box.  We went to Catholic church every Sunday and I was always surrounded by “well-to-do” people with “respectable” marriages and “respectable” households and “respectable” jobs.  Anything that wasn’t “respectable” was hidden from my sight; bad things were explained to me, but I never actually saw them for myself.  Of course I was aware that bad things happened in life (I got a brief glimpse of homelessness when we did service hours for my Catholic school), but those things seemed so far away.  They almost seemed as if they were in another world entirely.

Of course, I eventually started seeing the world for what it is: messy.  Beautiful, but incredibly messy.  Quite near the polar opposite of all the PG movies that had painted my world.

I eventually learned that some parents have kids they never really wanted in the first place and so they don’t invest much time or love in their kids’ development.  Some parents care a ton, but have to work three jobs to provide food and clothing and shelter for their children.  Some parents are addicted to substances or even emotions, like anger, and no matter how hard they try can’t seem to break free of their habits.  Some parents can’t make their marriages work and have to embark on the complicated lifestyle of joint custody.  Some parents get cancer and don’t get to see their kids grow up.  

When I finally figured all of this out, my world shattered.  Nothing fit in the box that I thought it did.  Where did that leave these kids who suffered disadvantages?  What did I do to deserve my charmed life?  Nothing, it would seem.  I wanted everything to go back in the box.  At this point (and I admit I still suffer from this some), I would have preferred to reverse time back to the beginning and just float as energy, with all of the other energy, content in our little blob where everything was the same.  Where there was no race or sex or religion to separate us – no bodies that would eventually fail and no limited resources to fight over.  Before The Big Bang catapulted us forward in time to struggle with problems like war and famine and disease.

This deep-rooted tendency to believe that perfection was the way of the world seeped through into my development as an adult.  At some point, I started realizing I was very different from my parents.  Worse, I realized neither I nor my parents was perfect.  I felt wrought with guilt on a regular basis and hated that I viewed the world differently than they did.  My senior year of high school, I willingly admitted to my parents that I drank alcohol (seriously, who does that?) because I felt so guilty that I was lying to them.

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day, and so I want to tell my dad that I know I’m not perfect, he’s not perfect, and we have a boatload of differences.  But that’s the point.  I get to learn from him, he gets to learn from me, and we get to experience each others’  love while we are learning.

Dear Dad,

You were born second of eight children in a house that is probably smaller than my apartment now.  I was born an only child in a four bedroom home situated in a wealthy area of town.

You had to show up to the dinner table early to make sure you got enough food when you were growing up.  I grew up in a home where you and mom saved enough money for her to quit her job when I was seven and thus make us incredible home-cooked meals every night.

You got D’s and F’s in elementary school (which you always told me stood for “Dandy” and Fantastic”).  I wasn’t satisfied if I got anything less than an A.

You worked every summer growing up (from corralling turkeys on a turkey farm to cleaning pig sties).  I played travel softball during summers.

You joined the Navy when you graduated to put yourself through college; You got to see the world on your ship, but you worked hard while you were doing it.  You and mom helped pay for me to go to South Africa my sophomore year of college so that I could see the world.

It’s funny how you raised me, yet we come from completely different places.  My deeply liberal mind gets incredibly frustrated with your rather conservative thought process, and this frustration tends to manifest itself in dinner conversation.  I can’t even begin to fathom how you don’t really enjoy drinking alcohol.  I curse once every five sentences and you and mom enjoy entertainment from The Hallmark Channel.  I know you don’t love it when I tell you I am sleeping at my boyfriend’s apartment.  Sometimes I get frustrated when you get anxious driving in the car, because I know that I reflect those anxious tendencies and I hate that part of myself.  But I’m slowly figuring out that none of that matters.

What matters is that I know that at the end of the day, we would do anything for each other.  You would spend half of your Fathers’ Day helping me load a moving truck and later put up a Facebook post about how you “Had a great day (really did) helping load the truck to begin Erin’s move to Nashville.”  What matters is that you are a great man who loves me and you taught me to be a good woman.

I’ve been searching for something for a long time that allows me to really, truly relate to you (other than the love a father and daughter share).  I finally found it.  You are a beautiful writer – the family historian and my own personal poet when I was younger.  I have finally found a passion in writing and I am so excited to share that with you.  Thank you for always loving me, and thank you for passing along that passion.  You always told me silly stories and wrote silly poems when I was younger, but you finished your Facebook post yesterday with the silliest sentence you have ever written: “I just hope I can remain as relevant on future Father Days.”  HA.  You bet your [expletive] you will, and I would never have it any other way.


This Week’s Highs 

1. Having a close friend who  I can talk to about anything (thank you CL)

2. Frolicking all afternoon on Saturday at the Atlanta Summer Beer Festival

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3. Getting my furniture all packed up and sent off to Nashville (with the help of my parents and a wonderful friend)

4. The fact that this guy was born 24 years agophoto-2

5. Of course, spending Fathers’ Day with my parents

This Week’s Lows

1. Can’t find my passport.  I leave for Europe in ten days.  This is one of my all-time, “I’m an idiot”, lows.

2. My room looking like this:

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It is a poor choice to move your furniture before you move the things that were contained in your furniture.

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One thought on “For My Dad

  1. Email up. Read this blog, brought a tear to my eye. (I am a father with a great relationship with my daughter). Your usual eloquence and insight was edifying and entertaining. You are terrific! (Nice picture, too)

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