19 June 2005

Dad's Day

If I had to pick one thing about my father that defines him for me, I would say that it is that he never put himself on a pedestal, remaining human and not at all perfectly god-like.  You might think this is a left-handed compliment, but in reality, it is one of the highest compliments a child can pay to her father.  I hope I can clearly express what I mean, but if I fail, just know that I love my dad and I know he loves me too.

See, since I knew my dad was a person (like me), I knew that he would and could make mistakes and that when he did, he never tried to excuse them as not being his.  He owned up to his perceived short-comings.  Sometimes, he would be a little too hard on himself and this while not being condoned, allowed me to identify with him as a person more so.

Dad served as a paratrooper in Vietnam, before I was born.  He was a truck-driver in my earliest childhood memories.  I remember that when dad was home on lay over, we had to be really quiet or go outside to play, so we wouldn't disturb his rest.

As a very small child, I thought dad defined dads, and men in general, by comparison.  Nobody beat out MY dad.  He took the time to be with me, where as lots of my friends' fathers seldom spent time with them.

When I was about 6, we had a large garden and dad was forever showing me which was weed (pull em) and veggie (DON'T pull em); then, before long I was back to pulling all the tender green no matter if it was weed or seedling.  Dad would come back and show me all over again.

He was fun too.   Dad took me swimming in the scaree water, held me securely while I got used to the rushing chill and the tiny minnows.  He would load us up and take us to get banana-splits for an extra special treat.

Then as I grew older through my teens, it seemed that although dad was spending more physical time around, he was absent in some ways.  He always had time though to discuss endlessly with me.  Eventually, I came to realize that dad was coping with things I would not TRULY understand, although I could be supportive of him in his efforts.  Some of those things dealt with PTSD (Vietnam), self-worth/esteem issues, addiction (alcoholic, dry for 15 years now!!!  good on you, pop!), and sorting out how he feels and thinks about a variety of issues that challenged assumed perceptions.

In a very big way, this makes me very proud of him.  Knowing that he has come a long way in realizing/recognizing, dealing with, resolving, etc. and seeing how he has grown and changed, adapting reactions from anger or rejection to acceptance and understanding is so very admirable.  My dad has had lots thrown at him over the years, and not all of it has been of his own making.

In my mid-twenties, my father and I grew alot closer than we had been.  We traveled together.  We also experienced some intense bonding, such as getting tattoed together.

We began to accept each other as adults, although I will always be his daughter and he, my father.  In the last few years, as I wade through my thirties, he has supported me in many ways in my own struggles.  Dad has been a silent strength for me to rely on when I was udderly bewildered by diagnoses and treatments of my mental illnesses.  He was rock steady in his support, a constant in shifting sea of chaos.

He is a source of guidance, intelligence, humor, comfort, and so much more...but most of all, love.  My dad is a wonderful person, man, father.  I admire him for all that he is.  It is an honor to claim him as my dad, the whole of him, with all the perks and quirks included.

Dad, I love you.  Thanks for being you.  Love, your darling daughter debbie

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