I’m 53. This means I can use my personal blog for whatever purpose I choose. In the past, I’ve used this space for only professionally-oriented content. I’ll still lean in that direction. But, occasionally, I’ve decided to embarrass those who mean the most to me by writing personal stories about them here. Dad, you’re first. Mom, Larry, Jack, Rebecca and the rest of you, be forewarned.
When I was nine years old, my dad moved the family to New Jersey. I was not happy about leaving my friends and starting fourth grade in a new school where I’d know no one. My dad felt so guilty, he bought me a kitten. Really, to understand the importance of this action, you have to know how much my dad disliked (hated) pets. I still smile when I think about that.
We moved a lot when I was a kid. From first grade to seventh grade, I moved to four houses and four schools. I know these moves made my introverted self seem extroverted and that comes in handy every day. My dad is a self-made man and he relocated us for better career options and better pay. He was supporting five kids! All those kids means he was incredibly patient and needed a sense of humor. When people asked if having five kids came from being Catholic, my dad said, “No. Judy and I just slept in a twin bed for the first 10 years of our marriage.”
Early on, my dad wanted us to understand that not everybody lived the way we did. The truth is I had a fairy tale childhood. Nothing went wrong. Our family was happy and lucky. More than once after church on Sunday, my dad turned left onto Warwick Boulevard and drove us through the worst parts of downtown Newport News. He wanted us to know and remember how fortunate we were. My dad did not have a fairy tale childhood.
My dad taught me to drive. I remember that about the time I was going to get my license, he said, referring to the car, “This baby doesn’t run on love. You need to start paying for the gas.” He taught me to pump gas. It was 1976; females pumping their own gas was somewhat unusual. He also taught me to change a flat tire.
I don’t ever remember my dad telling me what to do, how to decide, or what course of action to take. He trusted me to make the right choices. I’m sometimes shocked when I think back to my time as a teenager. When I was 17, my parents left me for the weekend to take care of my 15-year old brother, my 11-year old sister, my 7-year old sister, and my 3-year old brother. They were going house hunting in Northern Virginia and left me in charge. Nothing went wrong (that I know of).
Even when I directly asked my dad for advice, he tried to stay out of it. He particularly stuck to this once I got married. I remember about 20 years ago when Larry and I were looking at houses – we found one we could barely afford that would have required a lot of work (85% of which we would have needed to hire someone else to do). To this day, I’m not sure how I persuaded my dad to look at that house with us. We walked through; I asked what he thought. I knew he felt uncomfortable having an opinion. He finally said, “I think your realtor can show you and Larry a lot of other houses that you’ll like as much as this one.” We didn’t buy it.
My dad didn’t play on weekends. I don’t ever remember my dad having hobbies. He didn’t golf (he does now!); he didn’t have a boat. Instead, he hung out with us. I know he’s not the only dad in the world whose number one priority was family at the expense of all else. Still, he’s my dad and it’s relevant to my life. It made a difference for all of us.
My dad and I share a lot of qualities. My dad is decisive. I get that from him. He took his work very seriously. I never thought of him as a workaholic but I remember him getting out his briefcase after dinner and reading through papers.
My dad is intense about stuff. I’m like him in that way too. If you’re going to do something, you type A it and do it perfectly. Everything my dad does, he does well. There is no halfway for him. We also share the quality of toughing it out. Even now, when something awful happens, when something bad occurs, we both have the same approach: we talk about it with only a few people. We handle it within our own head and with our spouse.
Some of the radio stations I listened to with my dad affect my music preferences even now. We listened to Elvis, Tom Jones, Petula Clark, Cher and Nancy Sinatra. (I still know every word to “These boots are made for walking.”) A couple of years ago, I bought my dad an Adele CD. I knew he’d love it.
My dad has integrity. He always does the right thing.
My dad is contemporary. His clothes are always in style and he’s comfortable with the internet. I think I get my appetite for change from him. I know he’s not the only 70-something with a Galaxy S II, but I still think it’s cool.
I’m pretty sure I got my love of nice hotels, expensive shoes and fancy restaurants from my dad. I think he loved business trips just like I do.
Sometimes, writing comes easily; the words stream out like you’ve just turned on the faucet. This post was like that. Thanks, Dad. I love you. Happy Father’s Day!