Sunday, June 20, 2010

For my Father....

Father's Day.  A day just for dad coined originally when a woman named Sonora Dodd came up with the idea. Mrs. Dodd's father, William Jackson Smart, had raised her and her five siblings after their mother died in childbirth. While listening to a Mother's Day sermon at a church near her family's home in eastern Washington State, Mrs. Dodd thought about the sacrifices her father had made for his children and the fine job he had done in raising them. Because her father had been born in June, she decided to encourage the churches in her area to honor fathers in June. Through her efforts, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington, in June 1910.

It was not declared an official US Holiday until 1972 when Nixon issued a proclamation making the third Sunday in June as Father's Day in the United States (at least he got it in before his resignation in 1974 - my dad will appreciate that comment!)  Since the 1970's, and most likely before because when did any of us need the President's approval to do anything, people have been celebrating dad's all over American with cards and gifts letting the ol' guy know just how much we love him.

I may be the luckiest little girl in the world.  I have the best father.  Yes, I realize you feel you might too, but I assure you he pales in comparison to my dad.  Throughout the years, my father has been a dad, a FATHER, and a friend.  A shoulder to cry on, my biggest fan, and my worst enemy (but I'll admit, it takes two to tango).  He made me learn to drive a shift-stick car because it was smart to know how.  He made me help with bleeding the brakes and the clutch and change a tire because he never wanted me dependent on a man.  He encourage my independence and my childhood dreams of dance and my adult dreams of being a writer.  He has always been there for me going above and beyond the typical male expectation of father's - you see my dad actually was an active participant in raising me and got int the game with both my brother and me. There was no sideline coaching from him.  He changed diapers and worked two jobs when we were little to make ends meet.  He walked the floor at night when I had ear infections as a child and took me to Doctor's appts., dance classes, and school functions.  My dad was in the crowd cheering at football and basketball games and unless he was working, never missed a 2 hour drive to Brenham, TX on Saturday night to watch me dance on the kickline in college.  My dad has come to my home when I've been in dire need of help since I've been married and if I called him right now and I said I need you on a plane today, he'd be on the next flight out.  Yep, he's awesome - we'll just call it like it is.

I was born in March of 1976.  My parents worked in a music store so they were far from rich, but they were doing o.k.  To pay the hospital bills for me, my father sold a very expensive guitar (yep - he's musician too, can tear up a guitar both acoustic and electric...getting cooler all the time, I know) of which he was not able to replace until I was 30 years old and well out of the house.  I never heard a word about that guitar or that he sold it for me.  My mother told me about it when I was older and I remember thinking what a good man my father was that he would sacrifice something he loved for someone else.  It seems like a small gesture, but think about it really hard, it isn't.  He also sold his motorcycle because my parents need two vehicles that could transport the baby, and went to work for the Fire Department in Austin, TX cutting off his beautiful black locks of hair as the rules required.  Yes, all of this for his kids and his family.  He let go of his rock-n-roll lifestyle and became a full-time family man, and did it well!  It seems simple to say, 'well, yeah.  That's what you're supposed to do.' Look around - how often do we see that happening now?  Let me answer for you.  We don't (with the exception of my husband of which I'll get to later).

As a firefighter, he worked 24/48 (for those that don't speak firefighter, that's a 24 hour shift on, 48 hour shift off - shift change at 12:00 noon).  My mother had the kids on her own every third night and kudos to her for dealing with us.  On my father's days off though, he worked a 2nd job when my brother and I were younger and as we got older, he carted us to Dr's. appts, came to the school to give me lunch money when I forgot mine, and brought me my dance recital music once when I was in high school because if I didn't have it right then and there, I didn't get to dance.  While I was growing up I remember watching my dad study fiercely for Firefighter exams so he could promote through the ranks, and he always made 100% on his tests.  He read thick books filled with procedures and protocol and when he retired a few years ago, he was a Captain.  My father is the smartest man I know, still is.  According to my husband, I carry him on a pedestal and Jerry (my husband) used to say if he wanted to get me to do something and I was being obstinate, if he could get my dad to tell me to do it, I would.  I was, and still am, daddy's little girl.

I remember when I was four, maybe five years old and my mother was hosting a Mary Kay make-up party and I was too young to participate at the time (or didn't care, not sure which but I was a bit of tom-boy in my youth).  With a house full of ladies, I was outside playing my brother's scooter, old style sit and ride with ape-hanger handlebars and plastic wheels.  Plastic wheels do not continue to roll over rocks like rubber wheels do, they stop hard.  And mine did.  I went right through the handle bars and busted out, with great force I might add, my two-front teeth.  With teeth shards and blood everywhere I went running into the house amidst the party of pretty women.   My father scooped me up and took me to the emergency dentist while my mother stayed home and finished her evening.  There's a lot of women that would have called the party right then and there, even if their husband was available to take the children, but my mother knew my dad and I would be fine.  My father wasn't just the man of the house, he was my daddy and those two roles are very different.

When I was in the 5th grade, I broke my arm.  My mother had gone to an eye doctor appt. and I stayed home alone for the first time ever because my father was at work, of course.  She told me not to answer the door or the phone, don't talk to strangers, etc....all the basic rules of the house except one - don't do gymnastics in the house.  Which I did.  And trying to pull off a flip-flop/layout combination in my living room, I ran out of space and right into the couch.  In order to stop myself I put my arm down and snapped it backwards at the elbow.  Now, let me share this with you.  Growing up, I was a bit of drama queen when it came to injuries.  I hadn't yet developed into the shake it off, no pain no gain person you see before you now.  And looking back, maybe this was the defining moment.  But, I digress.  When I found myself hurt as a child, I would over-react, wrap my ankle in toilet paper like an ace bandage and use a chair as a crutch.  My father always told me I was fine, just shake it off and bend it, things would be o.k.  Well, this time I was telling myself this same sentiment because for the first time in my life, I was really hurt.  Rather than call 911, I called my dad at work.  He was out on a run (of course) but the man on the phone heard the panic in my voice and asked me what was wrong?  I remember screeching and crying real tears 'I broke my arm' and I did.  He radioed my dad and the fire-station closer to the house and two engine companies and an ambulance arrived at my home for a broken-arm.  How's that for service?  I remember that all I wanted at that time was my dad.  Often children go for the mother when they are sick or hurt, but my dad did this for a living and I wanted him by my side during the whole ordeal.  Now side note - bless my mother's heart -she pulled up to the house while all the firetrucks and ambulances with there with lights blaring, eyes dilated, and probably having a small heart-attack at the scene in front of her home.  See, this was before cell-phones so no real notification.  As a mother now, I must say - 'sorry mom!  I can not imagine!!!'

My father and his entire company took time off to come deal with me and my broken arm, and I remember there was issue with the way the department wanted to handle their pay because they were out of their jurisdiction for runs and my father took the brunt of that, too.

When I was a junior in high school, the unthinkable happened.  I remember this night like it happened yesterday and it breaks my heart every time.  My mother was out of town with my brother in Houston and it was just me and dad.  He was being quite the cool father and my curfew was 'be reasonable' - whoo hoo!  I went dancing in Round Rock, TX that night at SPJST dance hall.  Don't ask what it means, we don't know.  At about 9:30 or so, I told my fried that I was with I wanted to go home.  Looking at me like I was crazy, she wanted to know why.  'I remember saying, I don't know - something just doesn't feel right.'  We left and drove straight to my house and I pulled up in the driveway as the ambulance was pulling out and my grandparents were pulling in.   My father, the man I thought could never fall, had suffered a heart-attack and was being taken by ambulance to the hospital.  My granny wouldn't let me go to the hospital that night and they assured me he was going to be o.k., but I was devastated.  The next morning I had to call my mother in Houston and tell her what was going on (and let me say this - it was on the day of my brother's big event and she held it together for him until it was over...yes, I have amazing parents) and headed to the hospital.  I remember I was the only one allowed in his room because he was in the CCC unit and I was the only immediate family.  I remember walking into his room and seeing him hooked up to tubes and wires and laying there with a bad of sand on his leg so he couldn't move while he recovered from surgery.  And I remember I tried not to cry in front of him as he comforted me because it killed me to see the man I thought was impervious to kryptonite to lay in a hospital bed.  My father recovered, but this was a dark time for my family.

The medication he was required to take changed who he was, not just physically, but mentally, too.  It nearly destroyed my parents marriage and put a riff between my father and I that I never knew was possible.  I called home one night to say I was going to be late because I got a speeding ticket - yes, I know.  If I'd left on time, I wouldn't have been late and I wouldn't have gotten a ticket, but that's really neither here nor there at this point.  He was furious with me.  We argued greatly - both of us obstinate and stubborn, and this concluded in us not speaking to each other for almost a month.  It wreaked havoc on my family and my life.  We didn't sit at the table together, talk on the phone, even watch T.V. in the same room.  My mother pleaded with his cardiologist to change his meds as they were ruining our family, and finally something gave.  My dad started to soften again and in an effort to repair the relationship that was broken between us, he picked up his guitar and wrote me this song:

When you were much younger all I had to do was call your name
and you'd come running with a smile brighter than day
But now it just seems when I call your name
it just end in angry words, we have nothing to say.

I want to put a smile in your heart that tells you that I love you
I want to put laughter in your soul to use when things go wrong
I want to put a smile in your heart that tells you that I love you
So I'll keep reaching for the right words to say.

As we both grew older, somehow we grew apart
And I for one, can't stand this feeling in my heart
So if you listen to the words that are here in this song
You'll understand that I've loved you all along.

I want to put a smile in your heart that tells you that I love you
I want to put laughter in your soul to use when things go wrong
I want to put a smile in your heart that tells you that I love you
So I'll keep reaching for the right words to say.

I wrote this song for you to try to say the things I feel
Cause somewhere in the music are things I know are real
I know the right words are still alive inside
We just need to use them more on the outside.

I want to put a smile in your heart that tells you that I love you
I want to put laughter in your soul to use when things go wrong
I want to put a smile in your heart that tells you that I love you
So I'll keep reaching for the right words to say

Yeah - it's o.k. to cry a little. I did and still do - I still know the melody to the chorus.

In college, I relied on my dad to guide me through tough decisions and broken hearts.  He taught me a lot about men and that advice has served me well over the years.  I find myself sharing these pearls of wisdom from time to time with my young female students now, many of them without fathers for one reason or another, and because mine is so great, I don't mind sharing a piece here and there.

As an adult, dad has come to the rescue more than once for me and my son. And my husband - who is also an amazing father - is appreciative of his time and effort. Just so you all know, I married a man just like my dad - caring, compassionate, family-focused, and strong.  A solid protector and a great provider.   My father loves my husband and the man he is, and that's a good thing because I couldn't have married without his blessing, I just wouldn't have done it.  A concept many young girls overlook now days.  My husband called my dad from Georgia for permission to ask for my hand, a tradition often lost on young people today, but I feel strongly part of why my dad approved of him is that move right there, respect for me and my family. 

My father is now retired and helps my mother tirelessly with my Papa who is suffering from Alzheimers, her father, not his.  He is am amazing grandpa - which I knew he would be - and my son worships the ground he walks on.  If grandpa is around, the rest of us just don't exist and as a daughter that has always been in awe of her father, yeah - I get that.  He has taken up photography (of which he should sell and earn some extra money!) and I've included a few shots in this post.  He is still a great musician, a lover of life, and a hilarious man.  Everyone loves my dad when they meet him and let me say - my gift of gab comes directly from my father - laughter abounds.  He can, and does, talk to anyone and everyone he meets.

So, on this special day, here's to you dad.  A man that made me the woman I am today and I am grateful.  For when the conversation of father's comes up, I am never short on words or heart and that is all because of you.  I love you Dad!!

Photography by Travis Boring:

Check out more photos from Travis Boring at

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