Every time I find myself laughing at those Progressive insurance commercials about turning into your parents, I know just how true it is. For example, I am a nut about recycling, juuuuuust like my dad. If I see something in the wrong bin, I will not hesitate to move it.
This habit is a lot more than the result of an apple not falling far from her tree; my deep connection to environmentalism is something my dad cultivated in my sister and me from a young age. Despite our protests, he always managed to convince us to join him on hikes, and made no secret of the fact he was bribing us with snacks. He also taught us to show kindness to homeless folks, treat them as equals, and give what we can. He taught us that it is important to stretch every day, and he is my favorite yoga teacher. He taught us that while academics and career goals matter, they will never impact how proud he is of us, and he will never get angry or withhold love when we struggle.
For me, there has been no greater role model than my dad.
For me, Father's Day holds a meaning that words can't describe.
This year, I am feeling *extra* grateful for the man who made my life possible, and who has guided me to become the woman I am today.
I have opened up on Odyssey a bit about my family, particularly my mom's death. She passed away by suicide when in 2013, and I'll never forget how he did the laundry that night, saying "Some things are still normal." I know for him, this was probably a coping mechanism, because everyone in my family was shellshocked, and we all had to respond in our own ways. His actions held a deeper message than he may have realized at the time -- he was letting us all know that he would still be there for us as he always was, and that was not going to change anytime soon.
My dad had to take on a challenge he never asked for, one that would scare any man: raising two teenage daughters as a single father. I'm not gonna lie, the first few years were rough, because all three of us were struggling with our grief in different ways. During my senior year of high school, we had frequent fights, often over basic things, like how I started ditching class and had extreme difficulty waking up in the morning. I was going through a very difficult time and I was shutting my family out of my life. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II but even after multiple years of therapy, I had trouble even taking my medication regularly, attending school, eating enough, and keeping a regular sleep schedule.
My dad made a difficult choice during my senior year and decided that I would take a gap year before college, taking that time to address my issues through long-term therapy programs. I still struggle with the way he approached the issue to this day, and it has been one of the greatest lessons of my life to love a parent so deeply, and still disagree with them, while recognizing that their actions stem from love too. To have my dad respect that I have a right to my own perspective on my own life, even though he disagrees with me, means a great deal.
Since then, my dad has transitioned seemingly seamlessly (I'm sure it was much harder than I saw from my angle…) to parenting two young women as they navigate college. He could write a book on it if you ask me. He leaves personal life choices, like majors and minors, career path, romantic life, and the ways we have (responsible) fun, completely up to us. At the same time, he is always happy to help us through the big decisions in life, and offer his advice. When we need a shoulder to cry on, or an older, wiser adult to give advice, he is always just a Facetime away.
Just this past month, I asked my dad if I could go to a hair salon (my split ends are practically crying out in agony at this point) but he gave me a firm no.
I was bitter about it at first, but he was insistent. I'm 23 years old, and I have my own money. Certainly, he couldn't physically stop me from going to a salon. But over the years, I have come to accept that, whether I like it or not, this man is 38 years my senior, and 90% of the time it is in my favor to listen to him.
So, I dyed my hair teal. He wasn't thrilled about me dyeing the bathtub teal too, but he bugged me until I scrubbed it clean. Once again, I found myself asking where I would be in life without him.
I feel a bit guilty for waiting a week after Father's Day to write this letter of appreciation. I hope he can forgive me. I don't think I could ever repay him though, for being my rock for all these 23 years, especially after my mom died. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. So here's to all the single dads out there!