It is interesting to me how a relationship with ones father is such a defining factor in who they shall become. Usually the presence of a warm and loving and supportive father or father figure is evident, as is the opposite or the lack there of.
A good dad might be one of the most undervalued and under appreciated forces in the universe but part of what makes him so great is that notoriety and spoken validation are not a necessity for him to do his job. A good father nurtures, teaches, loves, and advises. He helps course correct and navigate without interference. It is not surprising to me that those who lack that kind of affection and relationship would be left with a void. There is a longing for their father. For their dad. I think part of the reason my brothers and I turned out pretty darn okay is because of Dan the man, our dad. He is the epitome of what it looks like to be a Father. To embody the role of a dad. I truly and firmly believe that my brothers and I are who we are as people because of our parents. We grew up to be contributing members of society, to have a sense of work ethic and purpose, to have a heart to serve, and to have a strong sense of right and wrong. We love those around us and we love each other because of them. We understand the trials, tears, struggles, and difficulties our parents endured in order to give us a good life.
It brings me to tears of sheer gratitude as I write this to know that every ounce of who I have become is owed to my upbringing. Is owed to the parents who came to every soccer game, who made me stay at the dinner table until every one was done eating, who only let me play at the park until dark, who didn’t let me have a cell phone until high school, who taught me to be respectful and courteous, who never gave us allowance but always provided, who taught us to always do a job well done.
In my 24 years of life, I have been to 17 countries, served on two deployments, lived in the Middle East, and started a life in two states far from home. I’ve competed internationally in various sports, gone scuba diving in the Red Sea, have jumped out of airplanes, and backpacked through Europe by myself. I’ve done a lot of stupid things and made a lot of dumb mistakes. I think that kind of freedom and independence can make most people lose sight of certain values. Perhaps not intentionally, but over time, distance and life experiences reorient our priorities. For a while that happened to me too. But as my 25th lap around the sun grows nearer, I can honestly say, my grassroots values have never been stronger. Never in my life have I wanted to be so close to home, never in my life have I longed to talk to my dad after a long day just to hear his voice and hear buster barking in the background. Never have I enjoyed the value of a moment like having coffee with my mom after a Saturday morning run or a moonlit conversation with my brothers, the way in which I do now. And I owe that to my parents.
Every boy I chased that broke my heart, my dad was there to wipe the tears and tell me that boy was never good enough anyway. Every time I came home quiet and somber from school , my dad would bring me $6 ice cream. Every dream I’ve chased that others said I was crazy, my dad would always say I’ve got to let her spread her wings and fly. Every lonely and rough day at sea, my dad would email me and tell me about his Sunday baseball and Uncle Larry’s antics and other silly life updates to lift my spirits. I can’t put a numeric value on the amount of times that something has been wrong in my life and my dad was there to make it right. My relationship failed, he was there. I got myself in debt, he was there. I lost a game, he was there. I didn’t get the job, he was there. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, he was there.
Much like our relationship with God, the difference between knowing a good and loving father or having a traumatic experience with a lesser and skewed version of one, significantly impacts the way we see the world and who we become. Many people are scarred and marred by a poor representation of God and it pushes them away from the healthy and loving relationship that they deserve. The same goes for our father here on earth. My life hasn’t been perfect, my parents relationship and childhood experiences were far from it but the love my dad has always showed me has shaped me into the person I am. Thank you to my dad, my rock, and my best friend. Thank you to all the fathers who take their role with such sincerity and care. I don’t think any person can have such influence over a little girl quite like her dad can. No matter how old I get, I always know that dad is there and dad knows best.