My whole life I’ve been told I look like my Dad. And y’all I do. From our freckles to our face shape to our 70/30% red/brown curly hair to our smiles – there’s no hospital mixup here. But I see him under my SPF 70-prone skin too in my hands, my heart and my voice.
If my mom is who I text flower photos to then my Dad is who I reach out to with the ‘handsy’ things. The ‘I think I have to take apart my Kitchenaid mixer and replace the grease after 20+ years’ and he sends back a Youtube video. He’s the one I call when my toilet tank is making sounds/has stopped making the RIGHT sounds. Trying to choose the right IKEA toolkit for my apartment. Who sends me Amazon links to the right type of superglue to keep my chair bolts together. If you can put hands on it and fiddle with it, that’s Dad turf. He can probably be found in Carharrt overalls, splotched with evidence of fixes past, pulling apart and putting things back together, safety glasses and a t-shirt that probably has a hole in it catching on a piece of a project somewhere.
He’s the one I try to make laugh; getting his laugh is a currency that throws all your other laughter dollars forgotten on the floor. The two of us will go toe-to-toe on puns as everyone else in the family waits, head in palm, for us to finish trying to outdo each other. Usually at the dinner table. While everyone is just waiting for us to pray so they can eat. Our humor comes from the same tree trunk but our branches do eventually diverge. We conspiratorially cackled sharing Far Side books back and forth. He’s legendary for long, rambling 5-minute jokes and I have NO PATIENCE to get to that punchline. I can fall into fits at an episode of The Office and he huffs, “I just don’t get this.”
My did a tour in the Navy after high school and I remember touching the coins from Hong Kong with wide eyes listening to heightened yarns of the guys he served with. We would all squeeze into bed as he told us long, detail-filled stories of “Spunky the Monkey” as we screamed with laughter, usually involving our plucky hero and bodily functions. I fell in love with books and my Dad was the one to tell me, gently, in high school “Make sure you have your own adventures too, ok?” On the morning of my 18th birthday I remember the local Navy recruiter calling my house – when I told him that night he laughed saying “They don’t miss a minute!” He once told me after college that I was the only kid of his he could have seen surviving and thriving in the military. I can’t tell you how that comment has strangely sustained me, making me feel powerful and capable because my Dad saw me as powerful and capable.
My Dad is mischievous as ANYONE I HAVE EVER HEARD. I know there are pranks my Dad and pals pulled in high school he still can’t talk about, apparently. IT HAS BEEN ALMOST 40 YEARS. And these are just some of the ones I do know about: the legendary Ferndale High School food fight that he started while wearing a gorilla costume to stay incognito?! A battle of the bands where he was in a white suit and used ketchup packets to look like he was bleeding?! A reputation that apparently made my grandma nervous when people heard her daughter was dating him?! And it didn’t stop there: to this day anytime my Dad has any scratch/bruise/scuff and you ask him how he got it the answer will be (say it with me, siblings): “Oh, that? Your mom bit me.”
But my Dad doesn’t sacrifice a soft heart for all those tough, funny things. He’s a loving husband married to my mom 35+ years. He’s a Dad genuinely interested in our worlds. He’s a devoted grandpa to 3 happy little nuggets.
When my parents left me at ORU for my freshman year…that was the first time I saw my Dad cry. I’d seen his eyes ‘glisten’ before, but this was monumental. I remember I was whole-body sobbing, shaking, standing on the bridge between chapel and the parking lot. That’s normal, right? For me to cry, visualizing living 2,152 miles from home. But it wasn’t just me. My mom was crying too. And so was this jokester, prankster, fix-anything-with-moving-pieces tough man. Which made me cry harder because anything that can break that kind of guy is worth sobbing about. It wasn’t until later that I realized as scared and sad and nervous but hopeful as I was…maybe he was too. He was losing (for awhile) the pun pal. The branch buddy. Someone who tried so hard to understand his machines but didn’t speak the language. Someone who wanted to hear all his stories. Someone who also appreciated a hearty Carharrt beanie and reading adventure stories and watching Young Frankenstein.
It’s been almost 14 years since that sweltering, August day in Tulsa and I haven’t lived at home since. I’d come home for breaks and summers, and I still find myself boomeranging back to the nest 2-3 times a year. I’m living my adventures and stories like he told me, but there’s always someone I want to share them with. The weird bits of the stories and people I’ve met on the way. To show Morroccan and Korean and Thai coins to; to ping pong puns with, to quote Marty Feldman with, to try and fix some machinery with, to shoot targets with, to lovingly debate and discuss with. Sometimes, a branch misses another branch just knowing who they are in a way no one else does.
I am lucky, I am loved, I am blessed with this Dad who knows and adores me. And I am so excited to share him with someone else someday. To watch their eyes light up hearing about a work prank that apparently involved a fake spider in a paper cup that made a grown man cry.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You’re all these things and more, every day. But today I finally kept typing through the tears to say all of it. I love you.