I know pretty much everyone thinks their dad is the best dad in the world, but really, that title goes to my dad. I can't imagine having any other dad, and if I'd been raised by anyone else, I wouldn't be me. So this Fathers' Day, I share with you ten of my best memories of my father to prove that he really is The Best Dad in the World.
1. Mom has this picture of the three of us kids, all of us in our pajamas, piled on top of Dad. The best part of the picture is that it's a real moment in our lives, not posed or a special occasion. Every Saturday morning my brother, sister and I would fight for the best seat in the house--on top of Dad--to watch Saturday morning cartoons. He loved The Tick best, so of course, we loved it best, too. I really need to get a copy of that picture from my mom.
2. I think Dad was a little disappointed he had to wait six years to have a boy, so he pretty much treated my sister and me like boys our entire childhood. But boy or girl, what kid doesn't love camping and fishing and shooting? I learned how to drive a boat, gut a fish and nock an arrow all from Dad. And though Mom hates camping, she put up with it just so we could have these adventures as a family.
3. One of my favorite chores growing up was tending our vegetable garden, mostly because that is where you'd find Dad on the weekends (after cartoons were over, of course). I remember one summer he put me in charge of the carrots. I tilled the patch, planted the seeds, watered, weeded and harvested. I was so proud of those carrots and insisted Mom use them in every salad, vegetable platter and stir fry she made that summer. Dad instilled in me a love for gardening that continues today, although it is much harder now that I live in an apartment with no balcony.
4. Baseball is life, thanks to Dad. He taught me how to throw, catch, hit and spectate. From pro games to little league, Dad watched them all. He also made sure we understood the importance of being die-hard White Sox fans, a tradition that continues today. I miss watching games with Dad, but every time I check the stats and see the Sox have won, I think of Dad and hope he's happy, too.
5. I have a proud Sicilian heritage, but I'm also proud to be Polish, Alsatian and Scots-Irish. Dad (and Mom) made sure we learned about every side of our family and knew where we came from. Dad told me stories about his dad being blacklisted in the 50's for his connections to unions and how his mother's parents came through Ellis Island. But he also made sure we knew the stories of Mom's family and how they fought with Lafayette in the American Revolution and were some of the first settlers in Northern Illinois.
6. Dad had this secret code that all of us thought Mom didn't know. He'd ask who wanted to go with him to the hardware store, which was code for "got get ice cream." He made sure to spend individual time with each of us kids so we knew he loved us.
7. Despite my current profession, I have a head for numbers, and much of that is thanks to Dad. I loved counting, so Dad encouraged me by giving me the change in his pockets and letting me count it every night. He taught me to balance a check book, invest in the future and save for the important things in life. I know it sounds kind of lame, but Dad taught me how to be a financially responsible adult long before I left home.
8. I know I posted about this just a few months ago, but Dad is one of my biggest cheerleaders. When I told him I wanted to be a writer, I could see he was thinking "How will she ever make a living doing that?" Okay, he actually said that a time or two. But even old dogs can learn new tricks, and Dad has really come around to this whole writing thing. Now he's the one who tells me, "Keep at it, I KNOW you will achieve your dream as long as you don't give up on it."
9. Hugs and kisses and "I love you"s were never skimped on by Dad. He wasn't too much of "a man" to show us his affection, and there were plenty of times when he cried with us as we cried on his shoulder. I remember one time in particular when Dad cried with me. I was a senior in high school, doing an internship and living away from home. All the interns were supposed to meet for a class, but one didn't show up. She had been in a car accident and died. It was the most horrible experience I had ever faced. I called Dad and couldn't stop crying long enough to tell him what happened. I was finally able to tell him, "Daddy, I need you." He and Mom hopped in a car, and four hours later they were at the place I was staying, giving me hugs and telling me how much they love me.
10. Dad is my greatest example of faith. Throughout my entire childhood, we would eat together as a family and then read scriptures. I first heard the story of the creation and the words of the ancient prophets from my father's mouth. He could make even the Old Testament exciting and funny and applicable. Every night, we'd say a family prayer and then be carried over Dad's shoulder "like a sack of potatoes" off to bed. We'd attend church every Sunday as a family, and though I am far from home, I continue to honor the Sabbath and faith of my father.
After all that, there's no way you can't see my dad really is The Best Dad in the World. And my dad can beat up anyone who says otherwise.