I haven’t really written much about my Dad so I felt like today, his birthday, was a great time to do it. He’s not really a big dramatic gesture kind of guy. We celebrated his 50th birthday last weekend with tacos, cake and balloons. That type of celebration is perfect for him though. He’s the quiet type but he can be rowdy and silly too. My Dad and I are very close but that looks different than my relationship with my Mom. It’s sometimes hard to put into words because feelings aren’t usually a big topic of discussion between us. We’ve always said I love you in weird ways. Ways that I didn’t truly appreciate until I was out of the house and had children of my own.
Love sometimes looked like holding me and rocking me to sleep in his ugly green recliner. As I got older that turned into holding me and rocking me as I cried over boys or grades or whatever it was that was hurting my heart at the time.
When there were monsters in my closet it looked like a stop by my bedroom after the lights were out to say “Boogie! Boogie! Boogie!” to scare the monsters away.
“I love you” also came in the form of braiding my hair. Long before YouTube videos of Dads doing their daughter’s hair became viral sensations, my Dad was doing it. While Mom was in college he’d fix my hair every morning for school. I don’t mean a lopsided ponytail either. He’d get up and French braid it. He’d even braid Mom’s hair. I’m positive that if I asked him today to braid my hair he would.
In my elementary and middle school years, “I love you” looked like an extra snack in his lunch box just for me so I’d have a treat for the ride home. I’d get in the car and immediately start digging around his beat up old lunchbox like a truffle pig. I still have the lunchbox and use it from time to time. I pack extra snacks for the kids too. I know now that, just like me, when he saw that extra snack at lunch time it was a reminder of why he was working so hard and what the end of the day would bring.
As I grew older, “I love you” took other shapes. Helping me to decorate the house for Christmas when I was off from school and he didn’t have work. It was just us before Mom and my brother got home. Teaching me how to make those giant Christmas bows and icing out of milk and powdered sugar, both things that his Mom taught him.
It looked and still looks like a random message saying, “FF” or “Foo Fighta!” An inside joke that started when I was in high school. Or a message with a quote from one of our favorite movies.
When I got married, “I love you” looked like walking me down the aisle. It looked like being a strong enough man to see and appreciate my Bonus Dad and the love I have for him and agreeing to share the honor with him as well. It looked like picking out the song that we would dance to and crying our eyes out in front of everyone while we danced. It looked like immediately jumping in to be a grandparent and accepting my Bonus kids as his grandchildren. (Including spoiling them rotten.)
When I had my Twins “I love you” looked like holding my hand as he visited me before I went into the operating room and trying to ease my fears on the scariest day of my life. It looked like being blown away by the little lives that were now in this world and coming by to visit the NICU after work when he knew it was just me up there.
“I love you” has always and will always be heard when he answers the phone. Although I’m almost 30 with children of my own he still answers with “Hey Baby Girl.” It will always be the words, “I’m so proud of you,” no matter what stage of life I’m in. It has always and will always be the sight of him waving goodbye and giving me the sign for “I Love You.” Even if I love you was hard to say or, in the case of my many on-stage performances, impossible to hear, Dad’s always been there to sign, “I love you.”
My Dad isn’t perfect, but he’s the perfect Dad for me. I hope 50 treats him even better than all the years before. Foo Fighta!