Dad . . .
We never had that incredibly close father-daughter relationship about which the likes of Disney love to make movies. We were too different for that. I was an artist. He was an athlete. I was emotional. He was reserved. I speak without hesitation (or, often, inhibition) and he’s a man of few words; although, I listened when he shared. He loved to fish and I was the one daydreaming in long gazes at the waters of Lake Michigan on which we lived. In fact, this difference actually led to my one, still-visible, childhood scar . . . a 1/2 inch line from a hook that caught me in the dead center of my forehead when, against my Dad’s instructions, I got too close with my rock-collecting, sand-digging, and dad-watching while he was casting for our dinner. (It was nothing that some hard whiskey couldn’t clean out and sanitize as we were a bit far from any doctor and fresh out of rubbing alcohol.) In short, when growing up, I had a lot more in common with mom than Dad.
One Dad’s Life Transformed Forever!
Despite any differences that Dad and I had, though, I would call our relationship a good one and most of my memories with him are far better than good. When I wanted to come home after not making it in acting, he told me, “Don’t think you failed. Think you TRIED.” When I was heartbroken over a guy who had left without a word (and with $400 of mine . . . an amount that may as well have been $400,000 at the young age of 18), he sat me down on his lap as though I were 8 and, instead of offering a fix, simply said, “It sucks to be betrayed.” Then he held me while I cried. When I joined the Air Force less than a year later, while most of my family was shocked, he simply said, “I’m proud of you.” (Then, he wrote me daily letters while I was in basic training.)
I‘m sure my two sisters have very different stories, but also great relationships and moments shared with the man we are all lucky to still call, “Daddy.” He’s a simple man who has always worked hard, made sure we could be involved with our passions, and loved his daughters. It’s because of him, that I realized others surely had tidbits like these, (and like those that are in my heart but not in these words), that they would want to share about their own fathers. I gathered some of those stories and picked four that truly moved me. Maybe one of these stories is yours, too.
Danielle, Age 27, Maryland
“Dad wanted a boy. He told me so and told people at parties my family would have. So, as “Danny,” I did all those things with my dad that he would do with a boy. I played tee-ball, and later softball. I put hooks on my own worms to catch my own fish that I had to clean by myself, too. I dressed in shorts and t-shirts most of the time and usually wore my hair short. I was way more into throwing a ball with dad than painting nails with my mom. When I was a junior in high school, I dated a guy that asked me to prom. I got a dress that was pink and had a big, long skirt and mom got me all ready in my room. Dad was downstairs when my boyfriend showed up. He called me down and it was like he all the sudden realized he had a daughter. I don’t remember a lot about the reaction of my date because we weren’t together for very long. But dad looked at me like we didn’t know each other. Then, he teared up and smiled at the same time. He put his arm on my mom’s shoulder and he looked so proud. We still fish together and he talks about being able to teach my son baseball when he grows up (he’s not even crawling, yet), but after prom things changed. Not in a bad way. For my friends’ dads, a lot of them had a little girl and ended up with a young woman in high school. For my dad, he had a kid – almost a son, and on prom night, he discovered he had a little girl.”
Jon, Age 17, Wisconsin
“My dad loves the Green Bay Packers! We’ve never gone to a game because they’re really expensive. But, in football season, he makes our living room like it’s a little stadium. He puts these yellow plastic pipes behind the TV and the walls in there are already green, which is pretty cool. He has all of these jerseys and posters around the room and all of his friends that go to games give him the little gifts that they get at games. So, he has things like flags, towels, beads and cup holders. When the Packers play during the year, he doesn’t let us in that room until a half hour before the game starts. Then, we have hot dogs and soda (he has beer). He makes the sound on the TV echo like in a real stadium with his speakers. In August, with our back-to-school stuff, he gives me and my little sister our season tickets to come see the game in the living room stadium. One day, I hope to take him to Lambeau Field for real, but I bet the games won’t be as much fun as at home with Dad.”
Patty, Age 54, Wisconsin
“I lost my dad almost a year ago. He was 91 and I was his youngest of 6 kids, so I know he had a long, fulfilled life, but it still feels sudden when a parent is gone. Dad seemed ahead of his time in a lot of ways. My mom worked growing up and she and dad both ran our house together as a team. That isn’t as uncommon, today, but in the World War II generation, that was almost unheard of. I remember Dad telling the story of coming home from Italy, where he had finished his time in the war, and seeing Mom (and my two oldest siblings) for the first time in a long while. He tells the story that, right then and there, he made the decision to always tell people how important they were and how much he loved them. He had lost some friends and one of them, a Jewish kid from the East Coast, Bernie, had really inspired him. The day Bernie died, he had been talking to my dad earlier. He shared that he wasn’t afraid to go because everybody he cared about knew it and he lived well. That’s who my dad wanted to be like. And he never lost the feeling because I can tell you, in my 54 years with him, that I don’t remember a single day when I didn’t know he loved me or feel he supported me. He hugged and kissed and shared words of affirmation with his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his friends, and everybody he met in every part of his life. At Mom’s funeral four years ago, he was the one comforting everybody else when he’d just lost his wife of 64 years. Even when he was in assisted living and quite physically ill in his last few months, he had great spirits and used to joke with the staff. One nurse even told me that he used to ask her to sit down and tell him about her day and he would comfort her when she was going through hard times. I try to keep his lessons, but every day, I miss him a little more. I’m comforted knowing that, when he got to heaven, he met mom with the same sense of love and purpose as that he discovered when he returned from World War II. Welcome home, soldier. Job well done. You can be joyful now. (And he was.)”
Michael, Age 19, California
“I became a dad this year. I know a lot of people think I’m too young, but my girlfriend and I got married. (She’s 2 years older than I am.) I know people a lot older who don’t even try to make things work, but Emma and I felt happier than ever when our son, Weston, was born and we wanted to be an official family. None of our friends are married or have kids. They go out to clubs and parties and it’s hard for us to be so tied down. We are in the same apartments as some of our friends and, even though ours is bigger than theirs, it feels really cramped with three of us, in here. Most of the rooms have baby toys in them. My parents keep sending stuff! Her parents live closer, so they actually come over a lot and help us take care of Weston when we are working or in school. I’m in school full-time and Emma just finished and has started a job. We know that we aren’t the story that is popular or the one you read about in books. But it’s worth it, because we also know how awesome it is to hold Weston and to dream about him and set goals for making his life and our lives very happy. We go to church as a family and, not just because we’re “supposed to,” but because it makes us stronger. We can be a success, even though we’re young, because we love each other, and we love Weston, and we have good people in our lives. I don’t know what might happen five or ten years from now because I can’t even picture what Weston will be like, then. But I know I’ll still love him, and Emma, and I’m excited to be a dad.”
TEN THINGS TO DO WITH DAD ON FATHER’S DAY
It was dad’s hand on my shoulder that I remember most of all and, until the day he’s gone and long after, it will always be my most cherished memory. Dad took me, for years, and my sisters, too, to the Chicago Bears games at Soldier Field. We got to pick our games. I could name a dozen memories I have associated with this annual tradition and even shared a story about it in a video for last year’s “Together, We Make Football” campaign through the NFL. That hand on my my shoulder at the football games has been a metaphor for my dad in times he guided me through life . . . a heartbreak, a broken dream, a new direction . . . he was always Dad.
And I got blessed again and again. My husband is a wonderful Dad to our three children. My father-in-law is also “Dad,” and I love him as though I were his blood daughter. From baiting our hooks, to mending our hearts; from sharing the love of sport, to sporting a smile and tears when we become young women; from expressing their love, to showing us how to love others; whether Dad, or Daddy, or Pops, they’re our fathers. Thank you for the hands on our shoulders and . . . Happy Father’s Day!
Also by this contributor:
Five Reasons Why Facebook is the Ruination of Relationships
God’s Not Dead: the Good, the Bad, and the Notable
The Non-Event from 9/11 that Changed My World
REJI LABERJE is a writer and speaker who has presented entertaining and educational programming to thousands since 1997. She is an author of many books, including “Getting a W in the Game of Life,” written with ESPN’s Dick Vitale (Ascend Books), the “Winning in Life” middle and high school curriculum, “Live an Extreme Life,” with Extreme Weight Loss’s Bob Brenner (Ascend Books), and the “Max Explores” series written with illustrator Liza Fenech (Triumph Books), to name a few. She also writes plays, poetry, essays, speeches, and other materials that are printed, produced, and presented. Reji teaches workshops, assemblies, and classes to individuals, groups, churches, or schools centered around writing, advisory, presenting, the Christian experience, and literature. Her author program business promises to bring the written word TO you, help create it FOR you, and bring it OUT OF you!