My dad is outnumbered. Between my mom, sister and myself, he’s probably spent more time than he would ever care to calculate, just waiting—waiting for us to get ready, waiting for us while we’d shop, waiting for us to make decisions, waiting for us to meet up somewhere. But in all this wait time, I’ve never once heard him complain, although I’m sure it may have frustrated him. I once asked my dad if with two daughters he ever wished that he had a son, to which my dad quickly replied, “Girls are great.”
My dad is resilient. But I should start by saying he’s had some injuries to come back from. Due to a few falls, he’s had surgery on one shoulder and both knees. But each time he dutifully did his physical therapy exercises, bouncing back quickly—never complaining nor feeling sorry for himself. But that’s also just how he is sometimes. It can be hard to tell if something is bothering him—he can be quiet and guarded. This combination was probably terrifying for any boyfriend I brought home in high school, or even my husband when they first met.
Anything I know about hard work, I’m sure I learned from him. I told my dad after the first day of my first “real” (or almost real) job, that I didn’t think I was cut out for the workforce. I was ready for it to be over as quickly as it had begun. It put into perspective just how dedicated my dad had always been in his career. He’s the hardest working guy I know. Dad sacrificed time being away from home and family to be able to provide for us—always moving up through the ranks in his field, building a strong reputation for himself and the companies where he worked. He taught me that “prior planning prevents poor performance.” I even saw it posted somewhere in one of his offices and it always stuck with me. He’s always encouraged me to “be great” and to do my best. And I remember at a really young age, having an almost overwhelming need to make him happy and proud. Not because he demanded it, but because, truth be told, disappointing dad was always the worst feeling. Worse than disappointing Mom…or different, I guess. And before any big, job-related transition, I don’t quite feel settled with my decisions until I call him to get his respected opinion and okay. On my wedding day in 2012, it rained. Actually, that’s kind of an understatement. There were tornado warnings and torrential downpours. Yeah. I know. As any bride would, I had a minor panic attack. But things quickly recovered as everything moved indoors and we carried on with the day. I only have beautiful memories and now looking back, I barely remember the rain. During his welcome speech, my dad found the perfect way to articulate how I felt about the weather obstacles. He said, “Although this may be Plan B, it feels like Plan A.” When he walked me down the aisle, it was just as I always imagined it would be, but better. I have always felt protected when I’m with my dad, and in that moment leading up to the beginning of married life, there’s no one else who could have made me feel calmer. The pictures of us from that day are some of my favorites—we both look really happy. When I was little, I used to make Dad do the lift from Dirty Dancing. You know the one. I even proposed that during our Father/Daughter dance, we revive the move. For obvious reasons, one being I was no longer seven or weighed under 100 pounds, we scrapped that idea. But during our dance, he did tell me, “You’re a star.” (See, nobody puts Baby in the corner.) I’ll never forget, as a bride, feeling every sort of emotion and being a little overwhelmed that all eyes were on me. But on that day, my dad thought I was shining. And because he did, I did too.
Sometimes I text my dad lists of songs to download. I know he likes finding and listening to new music. When I check back with him to see which songs he liked, he sometimes surprises me with his answer. There was a time when he was very into Akon’s “Soul Survivor,” if that’s any indication of his varied musical tastes. This is something my dad and I have in common, or maybe I just get it from him. Thanks to him, I probably know every early 90s country song.
I hope you don’t mind that I’m sharing this, Dad. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories. He had been traveling a lot and I think we were getting ready to move. He was going to be away for an extended period of time. To make the separation a little more bearable, he recorded himself reading me bedtime stories so that I could listen to them while he was away. At one point during the recording, he asked me to run upstairs to get more books. On my way back, I stopped mid-staircase because I overheard him leaving me a special message on the tape. He was letting me know how much he would miss me. I waited a little while before I came down so he wouldn’t know I had heard him. It made me so happy though and I couldn’t stop laughing. He kept asking what was funny, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. I remember listening to that tape while he was away and no matter if I got through all the stories, I would want to fast forward to that “secret” message before I went to bed.
It’s probably this memory that’s fueled my soft spot for the sound of his voice. To this day, I still save his voicemails. He doesn’t leave as many as Mom does, and they’re usually short and sweet like, “Devon, it’s your dad. Call me back. Bye.” But, I just like listening to his voice. I’ll have to confirm with my mom that I’m remembering this right, but I recall being little and my mom saving any messages he would leave on our home answering machine. We would listen to them while he was traveling and we were missing him.
I’ve mentioned his traveling a lot. I’m not sure if I’ve exaggerated this in my memories, but I think a few nights out of most weeks he was away on business. And there were even a few years, while I was in high school, when he lived in New Jersey—traveling home as often as he could, just so the whole family wouldn’t have to uproot and make a move we weren’t ready to make. I’m not sure I realized at the time just how big of a sacrifice he was making. It actually sounds a little crazy as I’m thinking about it now. I imagine that must have been hard for him. It’s a little late now, but thanks, Dad.
I’ve been thinking of a way to define my dad’s interests. It seems they all sort of fall into a category that I can best describe as All-American. He celebrates the best of what life has to offer—good food, good music, John Wayne and classic movies, books, sports, Woodford Reserve bourbon on the rocks, cigars and time with family. I’ve mentioned it before, but last Thanksgiving my family vacationed in Puerto Rico. I have some of the best memories from that week. There wasn’t any of the fatigue that sometimes comes along with family vacations. It was just good, quality time spent with the people I love the most, drinking margaritas by the pool, lounging on the beach, exploring Old San Juan, looking forward to our next meal, and enjoying each other’s company. When I’m with my dad, we still like to reminisce about that trip and think about where we might go next.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
With Love, Devon