June 14, 2014 at 7:56 AM ET
The sayings that we always said to town
Like “oookay” and “hammer down”
I remember that poem like I wrote it yesterday. I always wrote my dad poems and, amazingly, he kept most of them. He kept most everything I gave him: the poorly designed change holder I made out of construction paper, an acorn that we re-gifted each other several times over the course of many years. I was the last one to have it and I gave it back to him, wrapped up in a box, on my wedding day…along with a poem, of course.
My dad: Mr. Intimidating and gruff to everyone else, but to me (his youngest kid and only girl), the sweetest, most sentimental, teddy bear of a man I’ve ever known.
As dads go, mine was a saint — almost literally (we went to church together every Saturday night) for putting up with me as a daughter: a very attached, fairly annoying little girl. I was always reading my school presentations out loud over and over, singing songs to him because I knew all the words and thought he’d love that…and not realizing that my lack of a singing voice made it like nails on a chalkboard.
My dad and I drove across the country several times, just him and me. Sounds nice, right? But I always needed to know the lyrics to every single song. How do you learn the lyrics? Well, you play a cassette tape for a couple seconds, write down the lyric, rewind, replay, write, play a little more, rewind, write, over and over and over again. That certainly got us through some of the larger states.
But then after I wrote everything down, guess what’s next? Memorize it! Sing a line, repeat, sing it again, start over, keep singing, over and over and over again. It was honestly worth it, because now I know all the words to some very obscure songs: “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Johnny Bond, “Lord, Mr. Ford” by Jerry Reed and “White Lightning” by George Jones. (My dad got to pick the music.)
My dad has always been my buddy. I’d listen for his work truck to roll into our gravel driveway, then run to it and ride on the running board all the way back to the house. I’d ride with him to NAPA Auto Stores downtown every weekend when he had to pick up parts for a car.
Whenever he asked how many pancakes I wanted for breakfast, I’d answer "50" and, sure enough, he’d make me 50 teeny tiny pancakes. One of my favorite places to sit in our house was outside on top of the grill my dad built…just so I could sit there and watch and talk (and talk and talk and talk) as he made dinner.
I could go on and on about the truly wonderful memories I have growing up as my dad’s daughter. He made life so special for my brothers and me…a truly caring family man. The kind of man who’s always got your back no matter what, who’s always rooting you on, who calls every other day to check in and see what’s new, who will always answer his phone and drop everything to talk. Sometimes he’s a man of few words, shy and lovable (to others that comes across as intimidating), but he’ll listen better than anyone I know (he very well could be tuning me out, but at least it looks like he’s listening!).
On Father’s Day, it’s not about gifts for my dad. It’s about moments: getting to spend some time together, catching up, having a few laughs, a few jokes, a few drinks, some food — quality time. That’s what I try to give my dad as often as possible. Some time to set aside life and work and chaos, and hang out with my buddy.
And when we leave to go back home, we’ll always say “Goodbye, I love you, see you later” and wave to each other until we’re out of sight. Little traditions that add up and make the memories I cherish.
So on this Father’s Day, just like every other day, I’ll remind my dad: “I love you!”