Sunday, February 2, 2014

Open Letter to My Dad on His Birthday

February 3, 2014

Dear Dad,

Recently I read a book called, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know.  I read it upon the recommendation of several people.  Partly, I wanted to know what made a strong dad.  I also wanted to see if there was anything that would translate to me, being a mom.

So much of what Dr. Meeker wrote in her book resonated in my heart, from my experience growing up with a strong father.  As I turned the pages of each chapter, I found myself nodding my head and underlining things.  Somewhere in the middle of the book, I felt compelled to write a letter to let you know how thankful I am the Lord gave me such a strong father.

Looking back on my childhood, probably the overwhelming sentiment was the fact that you believed in me and taught me to believe in myself.  What a gift to have confidence!  As I grow older I am ever more aware of the power of self-confidence.  Almost to the extreme (a fault?), I have a huge does of self confidence.  

There were many things you taught me to do so that I would be prepared for life. You were always patient with me as I learned, allowing for mistakes and not ridiculing me when I failed.  Thankfully I didn’t rip the transmission out as I learned to drive a standard shift.  You taught me many other things on the farm like running weed eater, a chain saw, split and carry wood, drive a tractor with a wagon and other farm implements, countless other dangerous equipment. 

“Don’t let anyone tell you CAN’T.  You can do anything you put your mind to.”  

I remember calling home the first semester of college after bombing a chemistry test.  I asked to talk to you because I knew that Mom would cry with me.  I needed to talk with a cheerleader.  I needed someone to help pull my nose above the water.  You believed in me, told me I could do it.  Keep trying!  I needed that pep talk.  The transition from high school to college was a rough one for me, as I had been a big fish in a small pond and found myself as a guppy floundering in an ocean.

You were my hero.  You had an unshakable positive air about you.  The glass was always half full and never half empty.  How many sermons did I hear from you on the power of positive thinking?  Good memories.  

People respected you in our small town because you were the principal in the elementary school, (later a school administrator).  It was awe-inspiring to watch my hero, my dad, walk into a noisy crowded elementary cafeteria, make a “T” with your hands (for time-out).  This would command silence from rowdy children.  You were a leader...and a speaker.

You gave me many tips on speaking to groups of people from both your example as well as your focused time to sharpen me.  Kindergarten through fourth grade we rocked the Declamation Competition thanks to your tips for voice inflection and subtle pauses for effect.

I remember studying lists of spelling words and studying vocabulary definitions ad naseum with you late into the night. Well, it seemed like forever, anyway.  You required perfection - not as a harsh drill sergeant but as one who knows the value of quality.  This has served me well as an adult - knowing when to require quality.  (Mom, on the other hand, taught me the beauty of speed and making due with less than perfect!)  An example of requiring perfect was when we rented white chairs for my wedding.  They arrived less than perfectly clean.  You made sure the rental company knew this was unacceptable.
 My Wedding Day, 1999 (note white chairs in a barn)

You made sure I knew that you loved me by word and deed.  Often I would find notes or later, receive letters in the mail reminding me you were my cheerleader.   

I never worried about our family finances.  The year you were without a job you taught me by your example never to give up, never to get down and the power of a positive attitude.  You made me believe we had plenty of cash on hand (when now looking back, I’m sure things were tight.)  

My car was always cared for, oil changes, etc. (and you taught me to care for this day I love a clean car!)  Even now when we pull out of the driveway at your house it is always with clean windows. 

When it was time to move in college, you always helped without complaining.  You attended most music or athletic events (my whole life) while cheering me on, trying to embarrass me by loud yells but I loved the attention.

You shelled out cash for worthy endeavors.  Once I remember wanting a magazine subscription.  Was it Teen Beat? or possibly the literature-rich Seventeen magazine?  You asked me to give you some reasons why you should pay for a subscription.  I can’t remember my reasons but I remember thinking, “My dad loves me.  He wants to support my passions.”

In marriage you were faithful to Mom.  Never did I doubt your fidelity to her. There were some rough spots and arguments where I wondered if your relationship would stand the test of time but I knew you were faithful to Mom.  Deep in my heart I knew you would stick it out and be faithful.  In September you will celebrate 47 years.  Thank you for staying true to your marriage vows.

You were my protector.  Having guns in the house brought comfort to me.  I knew how to shoot those guns and had a respect for their power.  I didn’t ever worry about the boogey man coming to get me at night. 

You trusted me, and treated me like an adult for as long as I can remember.  One such example was when I was only 15 years old. I didn’t think it was a big deal that you sent me -alone- to Germany, to visit extended family.  Looking back on the freedom you gave me, (within reason, of course!) I wonder how well I will let out slack in the proverbial leash for my children.  I learned so much that summer in Europe, about myself and the world.  What an incredible gift!

So Dad, on your seventy first trip around the sun, I want you to know how thankful I am for your positive influence on my life.  And the generations to come (Psalm 78:6-7).  I am a strong woman today because of your influence in my life.

Happy Birthday!  I love you.

1 comment:

volscats said...

Julie, this is a beautiful letter.


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