Well, today is Father’s Day. A day to honor our fathers for raising us, being there for us, providing for us, listening to us, disciplining us and caring for us. This is the day to show Dad what a great guy we think he is.
And I have no idea what to say.
My dad came into my life when I was a very small child. He and my mom started dating shortly after my mom divorced my biological father. They got married when I was 4. Looking back on it, I feel bad for all the times my siblings and I yelled at him and told him we didn’t have to listen to him because he wasn’t our real dad. There were so many times we would all tell him what a horrible person he was and that we wished he’d go away and our real dads would come back. We really were three little monsters to him. It’s not surprising, though, when you look at our histories.
My mom’s first husband, my sister’s dad, had an affair and left my mom when my sister was very young. My sister’s dad didn’t really have much to do with her until she became an adult and he realized he’d missed the entirety of her growing up years. They’re now close and have a good relationship. When my mom married a second time, this new husband (my biological father) didn’t like my sister very much and wasn’t always nice to her. He wasn’t nice to anyone, actually, but he had a particular dislike for my sister.
As for myself and my brother, our mom left our ‘dad’ when I was 3 because he was just not a very nice person and she didn’t want her children growing up in that kind of environment. I don’t think he was ready for the responsibility of being a father and reacted to the whole situation very badly. My brother and I saw Larry about once a year until I was 12 or 13. We’ve only seen him a handful of times since then. (2016 edit – he’s not contacted me since I called him in 2012 to tell him I was moving to Malaysia. I haven’t actually seen him since Christmas 2004, I think) Every summer until he walked away from us he’d come pick us up for a week and spend most of that time telling us how evil our mother was and what a bad person her new husband was. I remember him telling us that any affection for our mother’s new husband was a betrayal to him and how angry he’d get whenever we talked about something fun we did with our new dad. We learned quickly not to even talk about our mom and/or her new husband or Larry would go into one of his rages.
It was a very confusing and heartbreaking young life for all of us and we all took a lot of our confusion and frustration out on dad.
Life wasn’t always like that, though. We weren’t always mean to him. You know how children are, though, they get irrational when they are upset. I think we were probably a bit more psychotic than the normal child at that age because of what we’d all been through during the first several years of our young lives. We were all hurting and confused and a bit lost. But my dad put up with it. He took our mean comments and our yelling at him and our animosity. He took it and he dealt with it and he loved us through it.
Over the years, though, we all began to see that he wasn’t so bad after all. He was a good man. He’d always been a good man, we just hadn’t been seeing things clearly. Ever since the day he came into our lives, he’d loved us and been there for us. It just took us all a while to see that.
To this day, I have the little stuffed panda that my dad gave me when I was very small. My mom had given it to him while they were dating and after they got married, I had a nightmare one night and dad gave it to me. He told me that Pandy was a special bear and would fight off all the monsters while I slept. He said Pandy would always protect me and keep me safe. I’ve loved Pandy all my life. That bear has gone everywhere with me. I took him to summer camps, summer vacations, sleepovers, a family trip around Utah, a family trip to California, every winter trip to Colorado, every family reunion, a high school trip to Mexico, and everywhere I’ve ever lived. He’s even here with me in Malaysia. I don’t sleep with Pandy so much anymore (usually just when I’m sick now), but he’s always on my nightstand or somewhere in my bedroom. He’s a symbol of comfort and love and reminds me that I have a dad who has always loved me. That is the gift my dad gave me.
I remember several times when my brother and I would come back from a summer visit with Larry and I’d be upset about something Larry said. He was always telling us what an evil person our mother was and what a bad guy our new dad was. I remember several time where he told us he was going to run off with me and my brother and we’d never see our mother again and another time when he got very angry about a time dad disciplined us and threatened to kill him, including describing how he’d do it. It was a whole lot of emotional upheaval and caused a lot of conflict in my mind. Sometimes I would talk to dad about the things Larry said or did and instead of reacting in anger and talking about what a bad guy Larry was, dad always became sad and told me that I needed to have compassion for him, that Larry was hurting and just handling his hurt badly. He said I needed to pray for him and know that nothing Larry said or did was my fault. Dad was always kind about Larry and never talked badly about him to me or my brother. I’m sure he was angered about the way Larry talked about my mom and tried to get us kids to hate her (and him), but he never let us see that. He was such a good example of what a good person should do in a tough situation. That is another gift he has given me.
As we grew older and began to understand the situation between our parents more, the more we began to love our new dad. Sure, we still argued and had typical parent/child conflicts, but it became less of a ‘you’re not my dad, don’t tell me what to do’ thing and more of an ‘I’m a typical teenager and am going to be a brat’ thing. And, seriously, I had a lot of those moments. But, dad always took them in stride. Sure, we’d yell at one another and all that stuff, but he always let me know afterwards that he still loved me. Even if I was still angry and wanted to be a snot, he’d tell me he loved me even if I didn’t like him so much at the moment. That taught me that no matter how upset you are at a person, it’s still okay to care about them and let them know you love them. That’s another gift my dad gave me.
There are so many things my dad has taught me. I don’t even know where to start. My dad has spent his entire life teaching me so many things and to this day he’s still teaching me things.
When I was little, he helped mom teach me how to ride a bike, he taught me how to use a computer, he taught me how to manage money, he helped my mom teach me to read.
I think that one is one of my favorites. My dad would read to us all when we were very little. We’d crawl in his lap and he’d read us stories as a family. I have so many fond memories of dad reading stories with all the voices and then when he tried to put the books away all three of us would dogpile on top of him and beg him to read more. When it was time for us to really go to bed, he’d give us each horsey rides to our rooms and tuck us into our beds.
For those of you who don’t know what a horsey ride is, dad would get down on his hands and knees and we’d each climb on his back like he was a horse. He’d then pretend to be a horse as he took us to our rooms, complete with neighing. lol. Sometimes he’d pretend to be a lame horse or a tired horse and we’d have fun trying to get him up and get him going again. It was just a whole lot of fun.
I have so many more pictures of a lot of these evenings back in the US, but they’re all so old they were taken before digital cameras, so I have to get a photo scanner and scan them all to my computer so I can share them. Very few of the photos from my childhood are digitized. That’s my goal when I get back to the US: Get a photo and negative scanner and write my memories about those pictures. I want my kids to be able to know what a wonderful grandfather they have. Eventually. When I have kids.
And now back to my dad.
Anyways, as I grew older and started growing up, dad taught me a lot of things to help me in my adult life. He taught me how to change a tire, which came in very useful the week I had the same tire go flat three separate times on the outskirts of town. He also taught me how to drive a stick shift, which must have been very scary for him because I killed the engine about a thousand times that first time I drove in traffic. Dad took me out to the Arizona Strip when I was 15 so I could learn how to drive a stick in a non-dangerous environment. He took me to a strip of road that had a wall of dirt on both sides, so if I lost control of the truck it wouldn’t go off the road. When it was time for me to take the truck back into town and try driving in traffic, I was insanely nervous. I did pretty well until I got to all the stop lights and killed it at just about every one. I remember one time I had trouble, at the intersection on 700 South by Pizza Hut. I released the clutch too early and the truck jumped and then died. These girls in the lane next to me started laughing and making fun of me and generally just not being very nice. I got really stressed out and told dad I didn’t think I could do it. His response was the same as it always was: full of love and reassurance. I remember him telling me that it was natural for me to make mistakes when just starting out and that it would take me a little while to get used to driving stick in traffic and with all the starts and stops. He told me to just ignore the people who were making fun of me and being mean about my mistakes because they probably made plenty of mistakes when they were starting out, too. He told me that he used to have the same problem at intersections and that I needed to just ignore the cars around me and take the time I needed to get the truck going right. He rolled up the windows to dampen the sounds of traffic and talked me through getting the truck going again. He was so patient and compassionate as I killed the truck a few more times, forgot to change gears, started in the wrong gear, stopped too fast, stopped too slow, ran stop signs and pretty much almost got us killed at every intersection. The only time he raised his voice was when I was about to cause an accident. What I learned from that experience is that patience, compassion and understanding go a long way with helping someone learn something or overcome a struggle. And that mistakes will happen, but that we just need to keep trying. That was another of his gifts to me.
I have so many stories about my dad that I could share: times when he helped someone and showed me what it means to love your neighbor; times he gave to someone in need and was an example of caring for the poor and needy; times he sacrificed something he wanted so someone else could have something and taught me how to be selfless; times he disciplined me and taught me that it is possible to be loving while correcting an error and so many more things. He was there for softball games whenever his work would allow, he was there for every high school dance night (to speak to my date before we left haha), he was there for most of my piano recitals and most of my award shows. He came to my graduation, gave me lots of advice when I was on my way to get married, gave good counsel and support through my divorce, has supported me in all my endeavors and has always shown me unconditional love. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for my dad. I love my dad very much and I’m so glad my mom married him.
Thank you, dad, for taking on three little monsters and helping us grow up into decent people. Thank you for stepping in and being the dad we needed. Thank you for being a good example for the kind of people we need to be. Thank you for loving us and letting us love you. I wouldn’t trade you for anyone else in the world.
It’s been three years since I wrote this post and it’s just as true now as it was then. I talk to my dad about so many things and he always gives good counsel and sound advice. He’s encouraged me through school and supported me when I’ve struggled. When I’m being snotty he’ll call me out on it and when I’m being hard on myself he sets me straight. He always makes time for me and he always let me know how much he loves me. I’ve truly been blessed with the best father a girl could ask for. I love you, dad.