Check him out. The dude on the left. With the fish. Not sure when this photo was taken, but I think my dad must have been about my age at the time. He looks so young and fancy-free, there, wherever he is. Little did he know what his future held in store for him.
My dad has ten kids. If there is ever a stage in ones life where you can be sort of, maybe, a little bit of a father, well, he left that behind a loooong time ago. He is pretty much the very definition of the word, 'father.' And even though we lived in different states, on opposite ends of the country when I was growing up, I always felt his presence in my life.
Growing up, he was the kind of dad who could always sooth the crying baby. He would walk around, endlessly rocking you until you fell asleep. Or make you feel like the most special person in the world by letting you sit on his lap, in his chair, while he watched his evening program. He would sneak you sips of coke when your mom wasn't looking. He finished the leftovers from dinner that you refused to eat (and with ten kids, this meant that he never even had to make himself a plate).
He knew what a good sense of humor was when you were still telling knock-knock jokes.
One summer day when I was playing in the lake (#Michiganchildhood), one of my cousins brought their knee up at a very poorly timed moment and smashed me right in the nose. I stumbled from the water, sputtering, crying, and bleeding everywhere. My dad hustled me to a water fountain to splash cold water on my face and clean me up. Then, when the tears didn't stop, he said, "Why are you crying? Are you afraid all of your blood will come out?"
He was the kind of dad to turn Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me" up to full volume in a minivan full of children because, "Listen, Trese. It's hilarious!" The kind to respond to his college-aged daughter's request for food money with a five dollar bill for a snack from the vending machine. The kind to spout long-winded, philosophic phrases at odd moments, such that you can't tell if he is being ironic or not.
Sometimes he was the elusive father, always in a different country, for his job. Or hiding away in his room after work - in an attempt to grab a moment's silence. But he was there when it mattered. He IS there when it matters.
He is the kind of father that can't stand to see his children hurt. He is the kind of father who loves you unconditionally, for exactly who you are. Not for who he wants you to be. The kind that accepts the choices you make and supports you as well as he can. The kind that gives you words of love and encouragement, at the most unexpected moments.
So, here's to him. My dad. Celebrating him for everything he is. Exactly as he is. A person who influenced and inspired me more than he could ever know. Even from 1,400 miles away. Now that is skill.
Love you Daddy.