My dad is one of the most diligent, dedicated, God-fearing and humble men I've ever met. I have learned so much from his example of hard work and single-minded pursuit of God. He embraces challenges head-on and never stops until a job is done.
Some of my earliest memories of Dad include his impeccable brown suit and the many cases of equipment he would load up for a night of square dance calling (at one time Dad was a real, live celebrity). But after becoming one of the youngest professional callers in the industry, Dad stepped away from a successful career to take over his father's painting and drywall business so he could spend more time with his family.
Running his own business and overseeing the homeschooling of six kids never stopped my dad from making a myriad of memories with us. Staying up late shelling peanuts and watching Orioles games, laughing ourselves sick over Looney Tunes, the Three Stooges and the Muppets; family worship with Dad strumming the guitar, spontaneous, drive-all-night trips to Florida and Williamsburg, beach vacations, Bible classes and devotions, impossibly corny jokes and dress-up, shaving with toothbrushes, skits and story times and wrestling matches, chasing the ice cream man, sliding around in the back of his pickup truck, logging countless driving hours and, my all-time favorite, "going to work with Dad."
I loved climbing into the creaky white paint van, lunch box in hand, and driving to work sites in Pennsylvania, D.C. and Virginia. Together we taped, papered, sanded, painted and explored old houses. I drank in the scent of fresh paint and talked Dad's ear off. No matter what childish stage I was going through, he listened hard and asked all the right questions. Dad is the best conversationalist. When I was at school in Philadelphia he would drive three hours each way to catch up with me over Friendly's sundaes. When I came home to visit, Dad and I - always the early risers - would make coffee and talk away the hours before everyone else woke up. Our talks are more rare nowadays but we pick up right where we left off, and he somehow always remembers and asks the details of my busy life.
My love language is gifts, and Dad is officially the Gift King. He would often come home from work with a surprise behind his back that was the perfect find for someone or other in the family. Dad supplied my Safari Eeyore and Punxsutawney Phil which travel with me to this day, much to Nathan's chagrin. He also supplied most of my DVD collection - he would stock up on DVDs all year and let us start opening them on Thanksgiving all the way up to Christmas. Now that I've moved away, Dad still sends me cards and texts of things that remind him of me. Apparently there is a surprise en route to me right now :)
My dad and I had a somewhat strained relationship throughout my growing-up years (what I lacked in gentleness and self-control I more than compensated for in hard-headedness). Dad's training and counsel over the years has stuck with me to this day. He walked me through studies on humility and Proverbs and taught me to spend time in silence listening for God's voice. When I struggled through doubts and fears about a future with Nathan, Dad opened the Bible and showed me verse after verse about God's sovereignty and His plan for our lives. I sometimes joke that at first, Dad liked Nathan more than I did. Dad knew the best and the worst of me even better than I knew myself, and saw in Nathan from very early on an anchor and guardian of my headstrong self. I must say, he made a pretty good match :)
Two years ago, I did the unthinkable to my dad and got married on Fathers' Day. In hindsight, I'm so glad I did. My favorite memories of my dad were made on my wedding day. We got up early and listened to Billy Joel classics. I surprised him with a Fathers' Day cookie cake. Neither of us are at all mushy, but when I walked down the stairs in my dress, Dad lit up. He couldn't stop looking at me. As the music soared and we began the walk down the aisle, he held the hand resting on his arm and whispered to me the entire way: that I was lovely and his pride and his princess. When we reached a furiously smiling Nathan, Dad put my hand in his and said, "I present to you our trophy." He chose Gary Puckett's "This Girl Is a Woman Now" for our father-daughter dance, and shushed my chattering to listen to the words and soak in the moment. I will never forget the day when Dad's pride and delight in me shone through every word and moment.
Happy Fathers' Day to the perfect Dad for me. I love you and am so grateful for your faithful care and guidance.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Proverbs 22:6