Dad and I, when I was still super tiny.
Writing about a made up Hallmark holiday without being cliched is hard, so it seemed like a good challenge to write a Father’s Day post. It’s difficult to talk about family, and I often think “who the hell cares about my unremarkable life?” But honest writing about relationships is my favorite kind to read and write. And there’s a lot that I could say about my dad.
We had a complicated relationship when I was growing up, as fathers and daughters often do. There’s no rule book for being a Dad, and mine didn’t have much of an example to work from. It’s not that my grandpa was absent; we celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary before he died. But my dad was one of eight kids, so my grandpa worked two jobs. When Grandpa wasn’t at work, he spent a fair amount of his spare time beating up my Dad.
My father had a hard life, much harder than anyone deserves. He was beat to hell as a kid, shot to pieces in Vietnam, he’s struggled with addiction, his first marriage was volatile. These things weighed heavily on him.
I didn’t know all the things my father had been through until I was much older. I sensed it, the way children can, but I was also completely self-absorbed, the way children are. To me, his past was irrelevant, because he was supposed to be more than just a person; he was my dad, and any imperfection was unforgivable. He’d done so many amazing things for me throughout my childhood; we’d take special trips to cool historical sites around the South, and he’d sit on my piano bench and turn pages for me while I played. He helped me with my homework, and taught me a lot of what I know about design and craftsmanship. But for the first 20 years of my life, I mainly thought about the times when he’d yelled too loud, or spanked me too hard. Like many children, I couldn’t see that my dad was just a person, someone who makes mistakes and tries really hard but sometimes fails.
Now I’ve lived nearly a quarter of a century, and had some time to make some whopping mistakes of my own. Thanks to my parents’ love I’ll never have to face the kinds of trials Dad did, but if did I don’t think I’d come through them with my optimism and integrity intact, the way he has. Now that I’m old enough to understand the struggles my Dad’s had in his life, I’m old enough to forgive any strain our relationship experienced when I was younger.
And we’ve become good friends. He backs me up 100% of the time, even if we don’t agree, and he’s always the first to volunteer his money or time to any cause I might take up. He has loved and supported Jason and I as we forge a life of our own together. He and my younger brother are best friends; he bikes and plays guitar just to stay close to Thomas in his teenage years. He works 40+ hours a week, despite his ailing back, worsening arthritis, and forty year old war wounds. So thank you for everything, Dad. Thank you especially for driving 1300 miles so we could be together this Father’s Day. I love you.