Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Dad, My Hero

My family is one of the most important things to me. However, I have never regarded them as highly as I do now. 

My dad specifically is probably the most incredible, valuable, heroic, respectable, loving, and encouraging person I have ever met. His life has been rough but he has never complained. His sense of humor is wholesome and unique. He has the rare gift of truly encouraging and empowering every person he meets. He has a love for writing letters and will spend hours crafting the perfect balance of exhortation, love, respect and value for each person he writes. I have gotten letters from him since I was young. As I grew up he used to write letters and hide them in different places so that I would find them later. A few weeks ago I opened a box of glasses that he and my mom had wrapped up for me in 1990 and put a note on it that said "Mary to take to college." As we opened the box after it being in storage for years, I found a letter my dad had written to me about that day in 1990 when they were already planning ahead for me in college. He told me what my brother and I had done that day, what we had eaten for dinner, what my cat was doing, how he appreciated my mom, and how much he loved me. My dad never hesitates to tell me how much he loves me and how proud he is of me. What an incredible thing to have in life! A dad that is always for you, always encouraging you, always giving you a little extra money than you needed, always sending letters to you, creating care packages to send to you abroad, giving you books that changed his life, and being intentional about encouraging weaknesses. He has a generosity that is hard to believe sometimes but that is what makes him so rare and special. 

One of the biggest blessings in my life is watching my dad with my baby sister. He loves her more than anything in this world. Seeing how he treasures her when no one is watching is so sweet to me. 

My dad has an uncanny way of knowing how you're feeling, what makes you insecure and worrisome, and in a two minute conversation knowing exactly how to help you and love you through whatever emotion you're feeling. I went through a really rough season of depression a year ago, and my dad knew all I needed was a kitten and everything would be okay in my world. The world could be caving in on me but if I had a kitten to love, everything else would fade away. He knows when you just need a cheeseburger and milkshake, a BP gas card, a little extra allowance, a friend to take you to lunch, or a letter building you up in every area of your life. I have not always been great with money, but instead of reprimanding me for my shortcomings, my dad praised the ways that I had been faithful, frugal, and generous. That is something so rare in many fathers today. 

My dad is someone that you can't help but be yourself around. He calls out the gold in you and makes you feel like a million bucks. If he is ever upset with someone, he finds ways to say great things about them. You'd never know he was upset. 

He helps you see the big picture. The good hearts that people have and how sometimes we need to broaden our perspective in order to see what is so incredible about them. He challenges my comfort zone but always gives me confidence to move forward into uncharted territory. He loves my friends because I love them. And he always thanks me for loving them well, something that few friends ever tell you. When college is hard he explains that transitional times are always hard, but they get better and settle out. You just have to relax. My dad didn't push for me to have perfect grades. He loved when I did, but he was so satisfied with all my effort in every area of my life. If I didn't do so well on a test, he would immediately find something I did do well on that week so I had a balance. Every time I entered a new season of life he would tell me story after story about what he loved about that season and what I can look forward too. Each season seems to get richer and richer which makes me so excited for the years to come.

What I love about my dad is that not only is he like this, but so is his entire family. They have a unique way of loving unconditionally and supporting in every way possible. I have never felt disrespected, not honored or not valued by them. Even when my dad was going through tough months, they could sense it in him (he would never say it) and speak up on his behalf. They'd encourage him, but also find ways to encourage my brother and I to reach out to him a little bit more. To let him know how much we love him (without saying that he was doing poorly). It is so loving to me that they could help and improve a situation without ever having to talk about the problem. One summer, my brother had decided he wanted to be an inventor. So my aunts would sit with him for hours and help him come up with new ideas and names for things. They never cared what people thought. It was their intention to love fully and selflessly. 

I could not have asked for a better dad or family. I am blessed beyond belief. And I hope that I have inherited even just small fragments of what they possess, and can pass those along to all of those that I care about and value.