It always surprises me that my dad thinks he is undeserving of his daughters praises. He will often say, "You girls are too good to me. I don't deserve all that you do. I was never this good to you."
But that is so far from the truth. As we celebrate Father's Day today, I want to pay tribute to my dad, my very first hero.
As a very young child, I realized that my dad was doing the best he knew how. I somehow knew that parents just figure things out as they go along. I saw pictures of my mom and dad when they were first married, and although I was just a child, they looked so young to me. They became parents not too long after they were married and I knew that they had had no experience parenting before that first bundle of joy was placed into their arms. It was on the job training- and that can be brutal.
Most people learn how to parent by how they were parented. And unfortunately most parents are somewhat imperfect. Hopefully we take the skills that we like about how our parents raised us and mirror that when we become parents ourselves.
I know there are times when I hear myself saying something to one of my children- and I realize that I sound just like my mother! It just comes out. I wasn't trying to sound like her, but it happens just as naturally as any other thing I would do or say. It's almost as if we have no control over it sometimes. And sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes it is not.
But it is what it is. And as I have become a parent, I realize that now, more than ever before, just how much of an influence our parents have on us.
And if you were not fortunate to have loving, understanding, nurturing parents- well, it just makes it that much harder to figure out how to be that way when you become a parent yourself. Such was the case for my dad.
However, so very often, he chose to be loving and nurturing- and that is what I remember.
I loved being his helper in whatever project he was working on- reloading bullets, painting the house, fixing the cars, working in the yard. Whatever it was- I felt 10 feet tall if he asked for my help. I just wanted to be near him and help make his load lighter. Maybe that's the middle child syndrome- but I just wanted my dad to be happy.
My dad served in the Air Force as a member of the Utah Air National Guard and I was so very proud of him. Every time I saw him in his flight suit, or in his 'blues'- I got a little lump in my throat and goosebumps on my arms. I knew my dad was important and did things to keep our world safe.
My favorite days were when I was asked to spend the day at the base with my dad. I loved watching him interact with the other men, I LOVED watching them as they passed each other, saluting each other. I thought it was such a neat way of showing respect.
When my dad served in the Persian Gulf War, I was nervous, but felt such pride that he was serving our country. Although I probably had very little understanding of what he was doing each day, I talked about him whenever I could to whomever would listen. In fact, I took a class in high school called, American Heros History. At the end of the semester, after studying about all of the American Heros- we were given the assignment to write about one of the men or women who had become our own personal hero through studying about their lives. I remember asking my teacher if I could write about my dad instead. She gave her approval and when I turned my report in, she was so moved that she asked if my dad would come in to share his experiences serving his country with our class. My dad was too uncomfortable to accept. War is a very emotional experience, I learned, and my dad's emotions were too close to the surface at that time.
I have looked up to my dad my whole life. I know he isn't perfect. But I have yet to cross paths with anyone who is. My dad does the best he can with each day he is given- and today, that means being the best grandfather he can be, being the best neighbor he can be, the best husband and father, the best brother. And I think he is doing an amazing job in each of those areas. I love my dad, my first hero. He has taught me many things, continues to make me feel special and loved, and is a very important figure in my life.
Happy Father's Day Dad!