Father’s Day is always a bittersweet day for me. When I was eight years old my father unexpectedly passed away. He and I were very close, and his passing left an enormous hole in my heart that has never been completely filled. This day in June serves to remind me of who and what I’ve lost, but also of the time I got to spend with truly one of the most magnificent people I’ve ever had to pleasure to know or love – and he loved me right back!
We only had eight years together, but in that time my father taught me lessons (purposefully and not so) that would alter, for the better, the way I navigated my life.
- Stay curious
Without a doubt, Daddy was the smartest person I’ve ever met. He knew a lot about a wide variety of topics and was constantly reading. The bookshelves in my childhood home were packed with tomes on everything from manuals explaining how to construct your own yurt and tattered copies of Franny and Zooey to complete Civil War histories and Chaucer.He was curious about everything and took it upon himself to read as much as he could about every subject that struck his fancy. He felt education was one of the most valuable things in the world and that it didn’t stop the moment you received your diploma. Education and learning were lifelong endeavors, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Laugh loudly
Daddy had a large nose and a dry, sardonic sense of humor. He laughed loudly and often, fully enjoying whatever joke a friend was telling or whatever trouble The Simpsons clan was in. I have vivid memories of him laughing uproariously, slapping his thigh, and occasionally snorting. While there are no thigh-slaps in my laugh, I inherited his nose and thus snort quite a bit whenever I laugh hard. Being able to fully enjoy a joke or hilarious situation is not possible when trying desperately to affect a different laugh. In elementary and middle school, especially, this snort was the bane of my existence and I tried hard to cover it up. It wasn’t until junior year that I gave up all pretenses of having a dainty, girly giggle and embraced the snort.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
This lesson I learned by doing the opposite of what I saw in my father. While he was a brilliant, talented, hilarious, and caring man, he was also full of self-criticism and doubt that he acquired as a young man. What my mother, his friends and family, and I saw as an amazing human being was completely different than what he saw in the mirror. It breaks my heart to this day that he didn’t realize how truly fantastic he was. While it is a daily struggle for me not beat myself up about God-knows-what, it helps to remember that those I love don’t hold me to the same sky-high standards that I hold for myself, and that they don’t think any less of me for slights I perceive as being huge, glaring failures.
- Do what you love
I feel fortunate to have received from both my parents a creative streak. My mother is a talented artist and runs her own graphic design firm in my hometown. My father worked with his hands building amazing pieces of furniture and, his greatest labor of love, the house I grew up in. Like my mother, he also ran his own business building and repairing furniture. He was a true craftsman and had an eye for seeing the beauty in something as seemingly mundane as a pile of lumber. Daddy loved his work and didn’t see the point in doing something he hated for a living if he could follow his passion while getting paid to do so. Both my parents taught me this lesson, and while I’m still making my way in the world trying to figure out the logistics of this plan, I am looking forward to the results.
- Don’t be afraid to be silly
Despite him passing away when I was eight, I feel pretty lucky that I got to spend as much time with my father as I did. He worked from home, so he had the freedom to drop me off at school, pick me up from daycare, and be around when I was at home. I have many wonderful memories of him, but some of my favorites involve him being a-okay with being silly with me as a little girl. He had absolutely no problem letting me putting his hair in barrettes and then going out to do some grocery shopping. He did voices for all the different characters in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Silmarillion, all of which were bedtime story favorites. Daddy was comfortable with who he was and loved me so much that it didn’t matter if others stared at his wild hair or he adopted a feminine voice for Galadriel. He was willing to put aside any preconceived notions of normalcy if it meant making his loved ones happy, so it was never a dull moment with him.