Stories of Us: A Father’s Love
Last month, my dad, who is perhaps my biggest HERO in life, turned 70 years old. And as I pondered my monthly Stories of Us post at Mom-Spirational, I couldn't think of anyone better to write about than him. After all, 70 years is something to be proud of. Like he said on his birthday morning when I called him and asked him how it felt to be 70, “Pretty damn good considering a lot of the people that I know are dead – so it's better to be 70 than to be dead, right?”
And that's the thing with my dad. Even though he has hasn't had a picture perfect life, he has had a life filled with humor and love. He taught me how to laugh when I was just a little girl, and still has not grown out of his fondness for asking me to “pull his finger” (which I STILL fall for).
Even more than that, he spent his entire life helping others as a police officer and juvenile detective, before retiring. His time spent in the juvenile division acquainted him with parts of life that people like you and I would never believe existed. Horrific child abuse and neglect, kidnappings, and runaways – dead children and sexual predators. He has seen it all a thousand times over.
And yet every night he would come home, seemingly unaffected – to laugh and live and love with my brother and I. Maybe deep inside his heart he felt the pain of so many suffering children, but he never once shared it with me. To me, he was just Dad. Laughing and happy and loving me as much as he could. I look back at those years and can literally shudder with the intense pride I have always felt toward my dad and his job. I rarely noticed his patent leather holster, or the gun that rested in it next to his handcuffs, but I did feel the protection and safety that he offered me.
Despite the fact that I was a girl, and had a brother – he also never treated me with kid gloves or allowed me to over dramatize life in the way that some girls do. Sure, he was there to help – whenever, wherever, however I needed it. But he also let me go. He taught me how to DO things, how to take care of things, how to change the oil in my car, how to shoot basketball. I never felt special – or weak or incapable – simply because I was a girl. While my friends who had brothers got out of chores like mowing the grass and taking out the trash, my brother and I were equals in the home.
He also was a stellar example of a good husband and father. He cooked meals, packed my lunch, took my brother and I on trips and all day fishing outings – not under the air of ‘giving my mom a break,' but simply because he wanted to. He vacuumed (still does today), did the dishes, cleaned the toilets, and made sure I didn’t grow up under the pretense of ‘gender roles.' How do you thank the man, the dad in your life, for that?
And now he is 70. Regardless of how old I get, when I hear his voice, or see him – I will always quickly whisk back to the 11-year-old little girl who was taught to “never quit on a miss,” while shooting hoops in the backyard. Maybe that's how it is with parents and children. Age doesn't play a factor in how we feel, or how they feel. Yet I will admit that that his turning 70 has scared me a little.
All those years of him taking care of me may soon turn to me taking care of him. He has been blessed with good health, and a happy, loving, retired life in Florida. Yet I also feel that the older he gets, the faster the time is approaching where he will become an old man, with a bent back and tired mind. And, truthfully, I am not ready for those days. I still NEED him. So admittedly, his birthday this year was met with bittersweet feelings.
Still, my dad is my hero. He is a remarkable man, that any girl would be proud to call dad. There are honestly no words to express the gratitude, respect, and love that I feel for my father. Today and always.
Do you have a family member like this in your life? I would love to hear about them in the comments!
Image via Flickr/Peter Werkman