I’ve always had a deep respect and love for my Dad. My earliest memory is when my Dad came back from a year-long hardship tour in Korea. We were at my Grandma’s house and we were going to celebrate by going out to Pizza Hut to eat dinner together. As I went downstairs to get my shoes on, I started crying and my Grandma walked in. She asked why I was crying and I replied: “Oh Grandma, I’m so sorry I’m crying and I don’t know why I’m crying…I’m just so happy that Dad is back from Korea”. She laughed a little and said “Oh baby, it’s okay”, and wrapped her arms around me. “Sometimes people cry when they are so incredibly happy”.
You can call me a Daddy’s Girl, and maybe that’s true. I don’t view the term negatively. I think all girls are Daddy’s Girls unless their father was/is abusive or neglectful. My Dad was never either of those things. He was gone a lot when I was younger, but he was working so incredibly hard to take care of his family, and I’ve always understood and respected that.
Dad was in the Army until right before I started 3rd grade. Then he worked for the railroad, a roofing company, the public utility company, and a silicon plant (what you’d imagine when you think of a steel factory). When the plant shut down things were tough, but Dad found work with an oxygen delivery service. At one point he even did hydroseeding for a landscaping company. I’m sure I’ve left out a few jobs he’s had or gotten them in the wrong order. He’d correct me if I read this to him, I’m sure. The point I’m trying to make is clear…the man worked his ass off to provide for his wife and daughters.
He literally broke his back providing for us. Dad did physically demanding jobs and often worked overtime to make sure we were comfortable. He didn’t always enjoy his work or his employers, but he took every job as a personal challenge. He wanted to be the best at any job he did and took great pride in a hard day’s work. Dad is now on disability from his numerous spinal fusions but still tries to do work around the house.
During my junior year of high school kids started talking a lot about going to college. Although Dad (and Mom) worked hard to provide a good life for our family, I knew there was no college fund. I also wasn’t on any athletic teams, had no extracurriculars besides a part-time job and wasn’t academically competitive. A college scholarship wasn’t in my view. What was, however, was my Dad.
There was no realization or aha moment when I decided that I would join the military. There was no national crisis that spurred patriotism, no dream of seeing the world or using the military as a way to gain a college education. I just knew, with every fiber of my being, that I would serve just like Dad. Sure, there were great benefits to joining the military, but more than anything, I had admired, respected and loved the fact that Dad was a veteran. I loved hearing stories of his active duty days and wanted to own my own stories of valor. I wanted to be like my Dad.
I have based so much of my life not on what would make Dad proud, but on the teachings he passively taught. I’ve lived my life with the guiding principles and values he instilled in me by not telling me, but by living as an example. Never once have I questioned whether or not Dad would be proud of me. I’ve always known he was proud of me, even when I’ve done things he hasn’t necessarily approved of.
I married a man who my Dad had never even met, and to add insult to injury, we married in Colorado when my family was in Washington state. They didn’t have the means to travel to Colorado, so they weren’t at my wedding. I have five tattoos at the time of this writing, and although my Dad has 16 (I think…he doesn’t much approve of my counting his tattoos), he does not appreciate my ink. My next tattoo will be a replica of one of my Dad’s, which he also knows and isn’t thrilled about. I half joke with my husband that although Dad will outright tell me “No, do not get any more tattoos”, that he ’s extremely proud that I’d get a tattoo of one of his pieces. It’s because no matter what I do, I know with absolute certainty that he’s proud of me. It’s an incredible feeling.
My Dad’s best quote of all time: “Life is what you make it. Every place you go and everything you do has good and bad things about it, but it’s all what you decide to make it.”