Years ago, when I was in high school, I was asked to write an essay about someone who was a major influence on me. Someone I looked up to. I worked hard on the assignment. My essay was chosen to be read that year at the senior banquet. I believe I won a small scholarship too. The essay was about my dad. It’s been more than 25 years since I wrote that essay and I can still remember some of the points I made. That’s probably because my dad’s influence was so big and so important that I still feel it as a 40-something mother of three.
When it comes to the Dad Department, I really lucked out. I have a father who was always there when we were growing up. His work never took him far from home.We always had family dinner together. And he is a great cook. He knows the value of hard work and instilled it in his children. He is honest and kind. I have always known that my dad loves me. I’ve never questioned it.
Things My Dad Taught Me
One of the things I appreciate most about my dad is how he shared his love of literature and art with me. Some of my earliest memories are of him reading to my brother and I. He even made recordings of himself reading our favorite books. Those are lost now, but I recall his deep voice and our sweet little ones on those tapes. He could recite “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” from memory.
Loving the Library
He also introduced me to the library. Going to the library is one of my greatest pleasures in life. In my mind, I can still see the corner of our small town library that I liked to sit in and read. I can still see the shelf with where some of my favorite childhood books were found. And it was Dad who took me there, helped me get my first library card, and encouraged my love of reading.
My dad had a darkroom set up in our house and did some photography for pay on the side. He taught me the basics of photography and bought my first “real” camera and lenses for me. We drove to a special camera store for my 14th birthday to get my new camera. It was an hour’s drive from home. My small town didn’t have anything like that so we headed up to the big city. San Jose was a place we rarely went. At one point, I asked dad if we were, and he said, “No, we’re headed in the right direction.” Of course, that meant we were still headed north. So, technically, we were headed in the right direction. My dad is a great guy, but not always great with directions.
Years later, all my camera equipment was stolen from my apartment. We were newlyweds and didn’t have the money to replace it. Now, I have a new camera and lenses, but I still miss the ones my dad gave me simply because they were from him.
Art and Museums
I have been to many art stores, galleries, and museums with my dad. One of my favorite places to visit as a child was an art gallery in Carmel, California that specialized in Ansel Adams prints. Our family outings were just as likely to take us into a gallery or museum as they were to an amusement park. Maybe that’s because Dad doesn’t go for thrill rides. That’s okay. My mom shared her love of roller coasters with us, so we got the best of both worlds.
The year I turned 40 and my dad turned 65, we took a trip together to the U.K.He got his first passport. I traveled to Great Britain as a college student. On a student’s budget, I didn’t spend much time in London. So I wanted to go back and see the things I’d missed. I also wanted to revisit my old haunts in York. Dad was excited to go. The trip was only 11 days long as I was a busy mother of 3 school aged children. We packed as much fun into those days as we could.
Fun for us involved a lot of museums. At the British Museum, we saw Viking, Roman and Greek artifacts. At the National Gallery, we saw works by Van Gogh, DaVinci, Seurat, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. We visited the National Portrait Galley and The Tate Modern. In all, we visited at least a dozen museums, cathedrals, and historic sites. We also ate some good food, had some fun shopping for souvenirs, and we took loads and loads of photographs. I think most people would have been tired of all the museums, art, and history after a day or two. Dad and I were the perfect pair in this regard. If I had the time and the money, I’d go back with him in a heartbeat.
Love of Animals
Another thing my dad and I have in common is a love of animals. When I was three, he brought home a dog from the local pound. If I remember correctly, my mom didn’t know he was getting a dog for the family. We loved that dog. His name was Elmo. We had him for 13 years. In that time, we added cats, hamsters, hermit crabs, and even chickens to our menagerie. We acquired a second dog when my friend had a puppy that needed a home. We took it to visit my dad at work. My mom worked next door and we showed her the puppy first. She wasn’t impressed. We took it over to meet my dad and he was much easier to convince.
He Has My Back
Dad has had my back for as long as I can remember. Whether talking him into a new puppy, bringing me on photography excursions, or just listening when I needed to talk, my dad has been there for me.
A Bad Situation
Back when I was first married, I worked at a terrible job while my husband was finishing grad school and completing an internship. I got the job through a temp agency. It turned into a permanent position. The owners and management of the business were not employee friendly. They were under investigation by the department of labor for their overtime practices. Employees were instructed to be early, but not clock in. We were bullied into not submitting all our hours “for the good of the company.” I was miserable.
At the time, I lived several hundred miles away from my hometown and parents. I told my dad about the problems at work, and how I needed to find another job before I could quit. I was our main breadwinner, and we had bills to pay. My dad had often worked in unhappy situations to pay the bills. He knew how I felt. I remember him offering me the extra money in his savings account if I would just quit immediately. At the time, my parents didn’t have much to offer financially. Giving me the funds would have been an enormous sacrifice for them. I didn’t take the money. But it meant more than I could say that he offered what he had to help me. Fortunately, I found a new job within a month or so and moved on to happier times.
Love of Animals, Part II
My family adopted a dog, and named her Lily. She was a really sweet dog. She loved her family. My Dad was one of her favorite people. When he would visit, she was always happy to see him and sit with him. She would even try to get into his car when he left. He loved her too. When I would talk to him on the phone, he’d always ask, “How’s my dog?”
In February, Lily she suddenly got very ill. I spent a terrible night trying to help her, but she kept getting worse. I knew she wasn’t going to make it. In the morning, I called my dad. I asked him to come and be with Lily and my children because I had to go to work. I got an appointment with the veterinarian that afternoon. My dad went with me. He carried Lily to the car and into the vet’s office. He stayed with me and my kids as we said our goodbyes. I know it was really hard for him. It was such a sad, sad day. I couldn’t have gotten through that afternoon without him (You can read more about Lily here).
Grateful For Him
You might say that my dad has only done what dads are supposed to do. Your dad should have your back. It is his duty to love and support you. I know, however, that not all dads are like mine. I know he is a good dad, that he has tried very hard to be one, and for that I am so grateful.
A few years ago, we were at my parents’ house for Easter. It was a rainy day and my dad was on the porch grilling burgers. It was a pretty casual Easter celebration that year. As we sat down to dinner, my dad excused himself saying he didn’t feel well. He ended up collapsing at the bottom of the stairs. Someone called 911, I think it was my mom. An ambulance came along with some EMTs and a firetruck. They rushed him to the emergency room.
My brother, sister-in-law, and I followed in their car. Half way to the hospital, the lights and sirens turned on. It was really scary. We didn’t know what was happening. It turned out that his potassium was too low. This was the result of taking blood pressure medication after his retirement. Instead of being constantly on a deadline and stressed out (Dad worked for a newspaper), he was doing yoga regularly and relaxing. He didn’t need the blood pressure medication anymore. By night fall, he was home again.
This event was the first hint that my dad is a mere mortal. I never considered this before. He won’t be with us forever. Someday, my greatest champion won’t be on the other end of a phone call.
Another Hospital Visit
Recently, Dad had another medical issue that kept him in the hospital for almost two weeks. He ended up having two operations. I was there visiting him shortly after the first one. He was still a little loopy from the anesthesia. While he was in the recovery room, he was confused and got a little combative with the staff. Back in his room, he kept apologizing to each nurse in for his “bad behavior.” I know nurses see confused and combative patients fairly regularly in the recovery room. But Dad was concerned about his behavior and was very sweet to the nurses who came in. He is a really nice man.
I am happy to report he has recovered very well from his medical issues. I wouldn’t say he’s 100% better, but he’s getting there.My parents are still fairly young (Dad will be 72 this year) and pretty active. Sure, they’ve slowed down a little, but they don’t seem elderly, if you know what I mean.
Love You, Dad
I can’t imagine life without my dad’s influence in it. Hopefully, I won’t have to for a long time to come. The thought of losing my dad makes me incredibly sad, but also very thankful. When Lily died, Dad told us “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I will be forever grateful for having a dad like mine. Love you, Dad.