My dad has been dead for more than half my life, but I think of him every day. He wasn’t perfect—he was only 22 when he became a dad, 25 when his third child was born. Growing up, he was a too-adored only child, so he had an ego the size of Texas. His mother once said with a straight face, “Your father was regarded as the Christ child.” My mom, on the other hand, is one of nine kids. She was able to rein in that perception just fine.
Anyway, my father gave me a lot of gifts, and here are some of them to celebrate him on Father’s Day.
One of the very few pictures I have of my dad and me. I think I was about 7, which would’ve made him 32.
Believe in yourself. Back when I was a dorky kid with Coke-bottle glasses, my father would tell me I could be anything—doctor, President, astronaut. I didn’t believe him, but the fact that he did resonated somewhere in my heart, and when the time came for me to tackle a job that had a very high failure rate—writing—I channeled my dad.
Work hard. My father left for work before we were up, and came home after 6 p.m. every weeknight. He loved his job as a salesman, and he did it well. He was often the first one at work, in before his secretary, often the last to leave.
Be good to people. At my father’s wake, hundreds and hundreds of people showed up. Guys who worked the machinery at his company told us what a great guy he was, how he’d buy them a beer after work and ask after their families. His clients, too, said how thoughtful he was, remembering where their kids went to college or where they went on vacation.
Relax. When my dad wasn’t working, he was the king of rest and relaxation. He had this big ugly recliner, and he’d watch football and doze in it on the weekends, or sit out by our pool, reading a spy novel. He loved eating out.
Be adventurous. We were the kids who were treated to the drown or learn to swim method. Dad would take us out to a pond, tow us out over our heads and let us go. He’d stay just out of reach, and we’d paddle desperately toward him. If our heads went under, he was there…but he’d give us a chance to save ourselves first.
Here’s to you, Daddy. Thanks for everything from the bottom of my heart.