Dad · Family

Getting to the End is the Point

The month of June will forever spin the threads of two momentous occasions together in my mind.

Graduation and Father’s Day.

The last time I graduated college in 1993 there was no pomp but plenty of circumstance.  The day I received my degree I simply opened my mailbox, ran my fingers under the edge of the thick manila envelope and slid my diploma into my hand.

I lifted up the heavy silk cover: Bachelor of Arts it read in fancy font. I stood there in the driveway looking at it for the longest time. Finally I snapped the cover shut, walked into the house and tossed it onto the stack of papers spilling over my desk.

I was lost. Even worse, I was hurt. I didn’t care that I had missed attending my graduation ceremony held over 3,000 miles away.  What was the point now? So I barely finished college. So what?  My dad was dead. He didn’t get to see me graduate. He didn’t get to see anything I did anymore.

At a deeper level I knew that wasn’t true, but I was determined to remain angry, to continue to feel cheated and hopeless. Why should I bother chasing my dream when the world proved to be so cold? I had no motivation because my biggest cheerleader was gone forever.

So I spent the majority of my early twenties lamenting my pain, my loss that no one else could ever possibly understand. Losing my dad was my excuse for everything. Doubts took root in my mind.  I gave up. I would never succeed. I would never become the person my dad thought I could be. My world was dark so why should I waste energy trying to create sparks?

Ah, but life has a strange way of seeing things through whether you’re on board or not. Fate intervenes and things correct themselves. Lessons are eventually learned no matter how hard you try to refuse their gifts. Threads in the tapestry connect and the circle closes.

It always closes.

A few years ago as I sat in the back of my first college class I felt that old familiar fear creeping in, threatening to suffocate that tiny spark.

But this time I had my cheerleader again. He sat in the empty chair next to me. I felt him there in every classroom for the past two years whispering, You can do it, Punky. He was seeing everything I was doing after all.

And I had to do it right this time. I wanted to show my dad I could do it. That I could finish this and see it to the end. I had to close the circle I had carelessly left open and frayed over twenty years ago.

Last month as I crossed the stage in my cap and gown in front of a thousand people, the sparks inside me creating a supernova of joy exploding in my heart, I had one thought:  I did it, Dad. I actually did it.

After I walked back to my seat with my diploma in hand, I glanced up into the stands searching for some sign of my dad. Did he see me now?

Laughing and cheering, I stood up with my classmates and ceremoniously turned my tassel from the right to the left. Of course, I knew the answer.

And my circle closed.

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Congratulations to all my fellow graduates.

And thanks Dad, for being there with me every step of the way.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

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Family · Humor · Top Lists

Top Ten Reasons My Kids Think Dad Rules

10) Clothing: optional.

9) Silverware, plates and table: optional

8) Food of any nutritional value: optional.

7) If he was asked: “Hey, Dad, is it okay if we fill these water balloons with whipped cream and chocolate syrup and throw them out the window at Mom weeding the garden?” OR “Hey, Dad? Is it okay if we stack all of the pillows and couch cushions in the entire house onto our sleds then slide down the stairs wearing underwear on our heads and shooting water guns filled with Kool-aid?” OR “Hey, Dad? Is it okay if we put on every single item of clothing we own, then roll ourselves down the muddy, grassy hill in the yard while shooting water guns filled with ketchup?” He would most likely answer with: “Sure.”

6) Ignores crushing chest pain and/or accidental kicks to the family jewels in order to continue the World Wrestling Federation/Tickle Monster/Let’s See If We Can Slowly and Painfully Kill Dad marathon.

5) Thinks a strawberry frosted donut is a perfectly acceptable breakfast.

4) Once dressed up as Darth Vader in public and it wasn’t Halloween.

3) Plays Mario Kart Wii, knows all the secret shortcuts, and thinks Bowzer is a real poophead.

2) Thinks Justin Bieber sucks, Alvin and the Chipmunks rock, and wearing a pink frilly apron while baking princess cupcakes is super kewl.

and the number one reason Dad rules…

1) Well, Duh. He’s Dad, nuff said.
(also loves to say things like, duh and nuff said)

Happy Father’s Day!

Humor · inspiration

Dad: The Man, the Myth, the Legend

Dads everywhere have long received a bum rap when it comes to their parenting abilities. If past movies or TV shows are any indication, a dad usually falls into one of two categories: a flustered and clueless idiot, not even capable of changing a diaper without tongs, duct tape, and a gas mask or a cold and distant larger-than-life man who works all day, only to come home and hide behind the newspaper with a pack of smokes.

Of course, these are myths, at least most of the time.  Dads are worthy of our highest praise and respect (and some harmless teasing, if the situation calls for it).  My kids’ dad was once honored to be named “World’s Greatest Dad”. A coffee mug can’t be wrong.  He didn’t get this title for nothing.

WHY MY KIDS LOVE THEIR DAD:

He has no sense of danger

I was told Steve screamed the entire way down as well.

When my son was five years old and could barely reach the height limit to ride the Log Flume ride at Funtown by himself (even on his tip toes), my husband thought it was a bright idea to send my sweet dimpled boy (and his imaginary friend, Steve) on the log-shaped Death Trap anyway, conveniently when my back was turned. For the next three and a half terrifying minutes, I watched my son gripping the handrails, grinning from ear to ear, yelling at Steve to “hold on!” As he slowly ascended Mt.Everest, I closed my eyes and prayed that he wouldn’t spontaneously jump out at the top. My son and Steve safely made it down after all, completely drenched and laughing.  I shot my husband The Look, ran over and crushed my son with hugs, thinking, Thank God he’s okay! I walked away with a few new wrinkles and, I admit, a pretty cool picture to put on our fridge. And, to my son, Daddy was the hero of the day.

He feeds them crap

On the rare mornings that I get to sleep in, I’ve shuffled out to the kitchen only to find one of my kids halfway through a BBQ potato chip bag or a box of cookies.  Their dad usually pretends he didn’t notice they’d somehow dragged heavy chairs across the floor to raid the pantry. Or he’ll shrug and say, “So what? It’s just cookies. It’s not gonna hurt ‘em.” I have my suspicions he’s been taking cues from Bill Cosby’s old 80s stand-up routine: “Dad is great! He gives us chocolate cake!”

He forgets to dress them

Whenever my husband is alone with the kids for any length of time, my kids inevitably end up wearing things out at Wal-Mart I wouldn’t dress my dog in (if I had a dog and even then, I’d still spare the poor dog any embarrassment of wearing a hot pink tutu over winter boots, a tiara, no shirt and a tie). Or he’ll somehow forget vital articles of clothing entirely, such as socks, mittens, a hat and a jacket when it’s minus twenty with the wind chill. “What?” Dad will shrug. “They’re only outside for all of two minutes from the car to the store. The cold isn’t gonna hurt ‘em.” Once again, Daddy = Hero.

He is their favorite toy

My kids have every electronic gadget, loads of Legos, Hot Wheels and Barbies. But nothing tops playing “tickle monster” with Dad. Every night it’s like the WWF match-up between Andre the Giant and the Little People. If it involves my husband being attacked by two giggling hyenas, rolling around the living room floor, my kids are in heaven.  Sure, Dad may have to pause here and there for a breath or defibrillator, but he presses on with the head-locks and accidental kicks to the groin because he knows they love it. Dad is The Man.

He loves them dearly and never hesitates to show it

My husband’s arms were the very first to cradle both of my kids after they drew their first breaths. Those same arms and hands rocked them during those endless, colicky nights, changed their diapers, rubbed their backs when they were sick, hugged them close when they had nightmares. He blows my son kisses at the bus stop every morning and swings my daughter up into the air when he gets home from work, covering her in giggly kisses. He is full of love and affection for them and I see their light shine when he is around.

He respects who they are and believes in them

The one thing my kids know for sure is that their dad will be there for them, guiding and supporting them in any way he can. He listens to my son when he cries that a kid teased him at school or when he’s frustrated with a basketball game loss or when he asks, “Why did God make the world?” Sometimes Dad knows the answers and will give some advice. Sometimes Dad will ask them for advice. This, to me, is the most important duty of any parent/caregiver/teacher in a child’s life: to really listen and to encourage a child to discover their true shining inner self and soul. This foundation of acceptance and security will help support them the rest of their lives and shape the person they will become in immeasurable ways.  For this, their Daddy is my hero.

This upcoming Sunday, I will celebrate the amazing father my husband has become over these nine years. And I will honor all of the other dads out there doing their best every day to show their kids how much they love them. Even if that means Oreos for breakfast.

Happy Father’s Day.