Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Man I Look Up To...

When I was growing up, my dad spent a lot of time working as a railroad engineer. We had this phone, the "railroad phone" we dubbed it, in the house that rang only to call dad into work. I remember dreading the sound of that ring. Its sound tore through the house to pull my dad away from us. I harbored a lot of ill will for that phone and what it symbolized, the absence of my father, but I never resented my dad. I always knew that my dad spent time away from us only to provide for us; he sacrificed time with us in favor of his love for us. He also knew that his long hours meant my mom could stay home with us. He figured that one full-time parent was better than two part-time parents. Maybe his approach does not work for everyone and it's not to say that other parents' approaches are wrong; it's to say that every parent does the best that he or she knows how to do and we as children need to be understanding of how tough our parents' job is. I'm not a parent, but I fully understand that no fool-proof book on how to raise a child actually exists.

I think he might feel guilty about all of the time that he spent working, but my dad was there in the lessons that he often unknowingly communicated. He taught me the sacrifices that unconditional love often requires. He taught me how to commit to something and to lead by example. And, when the railroad granted us time with him, he showed me how to be serious but not take myself too seriously. Most importantly, he taught me to stay true to myself. My dad makes no excuses or apologies for being who he is, and I'm so grateful to him for setting that example. (Both of my parents did, in fact.) I should be conscious of and sensitive to other people's feelings, but I should be who I am without regret. Other people's opinions of what I should do or say should not lead me astray from being an individual who feels good about herself because she is a good person, no matter how goofy she might be for thinking the English language's funniest word is poop.

Photo Credit: Eric Stocklin Photography
To be honest, I think my dad's best move as a parent has been this: be the really good person that you want your child to become. Neither he nor my mom had to belabor what was right and wrong; they demonstrated right and wrong through their own actions. I was blessed to follow two great examples. My IQ might not rank at genius level, and my pay check might actually be something to sneeze at, but I'm emotionally balanced and incredibly introspective. I have my dad to thank for helping to instill those qualities.

I have my dad to thank for a lot of qualities, in fact.

  1. My dad once told me that one of the reasons we are  similar is that neither of us needs to make a mistake in order to learn from it; we can watch someone else's blunder and say, "No, that will no be me." 
  2. My dad also has a very irreverent sense of humor, but it's one of his qualities that makes him all the more endearing. People will say to him, "Danny, you're so skinny." He responds, "Well, you're a fat slob." People need that dose of honesty because it's so rare anymore; we're so worried about minding our manners that we're actually being rude by allowing people to get away with more than they should be allowed to get away with. I think my frankness is one of the reasons that my students like me so much; people love my dad for that same quality. (Granted, this same quality runs in the women on my mom's side, so I "inherit" it from all angles.)
  3.  Yesterday, my dad spent the day first helping my brother prepare the baby's room and then helping Jeff install countertops in our kitchen. On his day off, he spent all of his time helping his children with their houses. What a man. 
  4. My dad relies a lot on logic; he's a practical man. He makes a plan, but he also makes room for the plan to go awry. He allows some expletives to eek out of his mouth, but he carries on in spite of the obstacles. He tenacity inspires me. 
  5. My dad is such a wonderful man. No wonder my mom has been married to him for 38 years (as of yesterday)! He might seem a little gruff, but he has such a good heart (my big brother inherited this same combination). Thanks to the man he is, I did not settle for marrying a mediocre man. So, not only did my dad help shape me into the person I am, he also provided a model for the kind of man I should marry. 
Daddy, thank you so much for your guidance, support, love, honesty, dedication, and sense of humor. I'm blessed to have your blood course through my veins. I love you. 

-Daughty Waughty Woo Woo

My dad is the one on the left. 

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