My parents would start slow dancing in the middle of the floor. Sometimes, my dad would sing to my mom. Sometimes, they swayed to no music at all. Then they would kiss. We were yucked out of course. I mean we were kids, and they were always touching and kissing each other, in plain view of us. In love. We moaned and giggled and asked them to please stop. Deep down though, I loved those moments and I longed for that same kind of silly, stable, whimsical love one day, when I was a grown-up.
My mom was sweet and soothing, still is. She used a baby voice when she talked to us, and it didn’t matter that we were 5, 9 and 12 years old. We could always get our way around her. If she’d tell us we could have one piece of candy, we always knew we could have five. We’d beg and plead and she’d cave, the way mothers do when fathers aren’t around.
My dad was a big kid, still is. A real jokester, who was a lot of fun. He played ball with us. He’d tickle us until we couldn’t laugh anymore. He’d laugh at the names we kids used to antagonize each other (ant, elephant and beaver), and when we’d least expect it, like when we were seated at the dinner table, a side grin would appear on his face and he’d call us by those names. Then he’d chuckle like it was the funniest thing ever, his belly bouncing up and down.
I’m a lot like my dad.
We have the same temperament: Happy and easygoing until we’re not, and then watch out. We have the same sense of humor, even similar laughs. We are both up on current events, which is a nice way of saying we are news junkies.
Physically, I resemble my mom, but personality-wise, I’m my dad’s guts.
I remember the time we were playing baseball out back and dad was pitching. I had recently joined a baseball team, and I was working on my swing. I hit that ball, a line drive, straight at him, by accident. I broke his glasses and for a moment, I feared he was hurt. He threw up his arm and declared the game was over. When I realized he was ok, we got a good laugh from it. Well, maybe me more so than him.
We were always laughing.
He and I would battle it out on the tennis court. In the heat of summer. Trash-talking. We’d go the best of 3, and then depending on who lost, we’d add on some games. We did the same with Checkers and Backgammon. Both competitive-natured, we played until we were either tired of winning, or losing.
Always a man of his word, he promised me a 10-speed bike if I sang “O Holy Night” in the Christmas play, and he delivered. I didn’t even mind that it wasn’t brand new — it was new to me.
When dad coached a Sertoma youth league basketball team, I was the only girl on the team. He ran out of jerseys, so he let me wear my Supergirl t-shirt to games. I felt invincible, until it was my turn to clock in. Back then, every member on the team had to get some playing time, so he was forced to play me. I’d hold the ball and when the boys ran up on me to try and steal it, I’d run, scream, and/or throw the ball in the air. Dad would call a time out, and before long, I was right back on the bench next to him, which is where I wanted to be all along.
That’s where I’ve always wanted to be – right next to my pops.
He taught me about faith and hope, about sacrifice and hard work. He taught me that a girl could be anything she wanted to be in life, and he’s encouraged every pursuit I’ve ever had. When I became a journalist, he’d call me Lois Lane.
He was the first man I ever loved, my first hero. He has shown me, by his actions, how a man should treat his baby girl, and he set the bar pretty high. When you are fortunate enough to have a dad like mine, you don’t accept much junk from any guy. He must come correct or not come at all.
With a dad like mine, I’ve learned I’ll be alright, no matter what life throws my way.
He sparked a love of travel in me that continues to this day. As hard as he worked, he made sure to take off a week each summer and he’d drive us to the beach for family vacations.
I have watched my dad handle a few disappointments, trials and heartbreaks over the years, and I have been inspired by his unconditional love and his resiliency. He’s taught me lessons in these moments too, about the importance of family and sticking together, come what may.
Replaying my childhood reel in my mind on my dad’s 73rd birthday makes me smile. It was a beautiful upbringing, firmly rooted in faith, family and fortitude. These seeds blossomed a daddy’s girl ready to face the world, secure in the love that was there from the start.
Happy Birthday, poppy.