It’s Valentine’s Day. That means heart shaped pancakes, cards and candy for my boys and beautiful roses and a “box of cake” from them (hey, you can’t go wrong with a “box of cake” can you? Especially when it means it came from a bakery and I don’t have to clean up the mess left behind).
It also means I owe an apology to my first Valentine: My dad. I typically send a card at least, but this year I dropped the ball. I have spent the last week sick, sick, sick. I have the worst sinus infection in the history of sinus infections that is continuing to kick my tail despite the antibiotics. Needless to say, I didn’t quite make it to Hallmark in time to mail a card to my dad. I didn’t even make it to the mailbox at the end of the driveway until Thursday.
Growing up, my dad was the typical hero every little girl looks up to. He suffered through all the dad/daughter dances, he helped with all the school projects (remember that log cabin we built that ended up being more structurally sound than the apartment we were living in and weighed about 50lbs as a result?), he stayed up until the wee hours of the night putting together my first bicycle – the blue one with the banana seat and white plastic basket on the front – then spent countless attempts helping me learn to ride it without the training wheels. He fought the county school board when they wanted to send our little neighborhood to another middle school and won. He empowered me to fight the evil Miss Jones (yes, I’m still bitter) who accused me of plagiarizing a paper my sophomore year in high school (her accusation based on it being “too good” for a student my age).
My dad lost his job when I was in the fifth grade. As a result, he decided to put up his own shingle. So started the years of dad’s home office. To be honest, I loved that time. I loved coming home from school every afternoon and having him there to talk to. By high school, I’d come in, plop down at the drafting table and offer my own ideas and insights into the houses he was designing while sharing the days’ events from school. Sometimes he’d share a snack with me as I decompressed in front of General Hospital – eventually knowing just as much of the story lines as my sister and I did.
It was my dad who drove me 13 hours to Boston College for the official tour after I’d been accepted there and ultimately gave me the best advice for choosing a school when I couldn’t decide between there and UNC. It was my dad who answered the phone the night I found out my college roommate died while I was away on a business trip, alone and scared about the new reality I faced where friends were lost forever. Although he thought he didn’t know what to say, his calming voice was what I needed until mom got home and took over.
My dad not only approved, but welcomed the hubby as one of the family (for better or worse!). He championed our moving away, understanding the need we felt for challenge, for new, for independence. He has been a surprisingly sappy grandfather, in a way I didn’t quite expect but love to watch. My boys appear to be the sons he didn’t have, but I have no doubt that if they were girls, he’d be just as silly over them.
Through our adult years, my dad has shared some of his most difficult life’s burdens with my sister and I. Burdens that I can’t bear to imagine. Burdens that shape him, but don’t define him. Just as a nick in a sculpture might make it flawed, it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. But these burdens have put our family on a different path. A path that often mires him down in the weeds and shadows forcing us to be patient. But I hope he knows that we are here, armed with weed whackers and machetes to slay those tangles away and pull him free to the sunshine, when he needs the help.
So this year, I am sorry, daddy, that I did not buy you a card (hey, it’s probably your bad sinuses that made me susceptible to this darned infection anyway!), but know that you are still my hero, my champion, my bridge, my Valentine.
I love you.