Two things we weren’t supposed to talk about growing up: my father’s experience at war in the Army and his father. I don’t really recall ever being told I couldn’t talk about those things, it just felt like an unspoken rule. It was evident these were hard subjects so we stayed away.
From what I know, my dad never knew his father. He grew up with his mom and older sister. His mom worked a lot to support her two kids so he had limited guidance. From what I hear, he was a bit of a rascal growing up. He always found a way to get into trouble. I once heard a story that he got suspended from school for making ninja stars. He wasn’t going to hurt anybody, just liked to test boundaries. Still does.
He married his high school sweetheart and enrolled in the Army. They were just 18 and 19. He was first stationed in Germany which is where I was born. Over the span of a decade, they had four kids.
Growing up with a dad like mine was SO FUN. He was just a big kid so he was silly and creative. Memories from my upbringing are filled with the made up games we played. We would play “darkies” where we turn off all the lights and basically play a combination of tag and hide and seek in the house. We went night crawler hunting. We would make forts. You name it, we played it.
Not only was my dad fun but he also took so much time to teach me things. He would buy me books and brain teasers. He would give me “allowance” to read books during the summer and write reports on them. He would teach me the importance of finances which has helped set me up for success today. Most importantly, he helped me develop my faith in God.
I still remember the day I sat on the front porch with him as he explained everything to me. I didn’t understand everything at first but it made sense later in life.
He even taught me how to be a good wife. I know that might sound strange but from the moment I started asking him about kissing boys – we had “the talk”. Woof – awkward. But hey, looking back, I appreciate those awkward conversations because as I was navigating through my middle school and high school days, those “awkward talks” were very helpful.
As I was stumbling through my teenage years with all the unknowns and obnoxious amounts of feelings, my dad would always share with me tips for how I could be a great wife someday. For example, he told me about unconditional love and forgiveness. If someone does you wrong, don’t hold a grudge. Find forgiveness and find a way to move on. That’s one of many examples.
He wasn’t always the perfect dad during my teenage years. I remember I had a few – let’s call them “emotional outbursts”. There were times when my dad had no words and just simply laughed. His classic way out of an argument is to make you laugh. It usually works. My brother does the same thing.
As I reflect back on my childhood, I can’t help but wonder – how did my dad do such a great job without ever having a dad of his own to be that role model in his life? Was my dad awesome BECAUSE he didn’t have a dad and wanted to make sure he raised his children well? I’m not sure. I just know I’m thankful.
Now, behind every great man is a great woman. Is that how the saying goes? Well, I think everyone in my family, including my dad, can admit that my mom played such a crucial role in our family. My dad needed her and still does. They have been through some…stuff. It’s been crazy to observe the transformation over the years. From young and in love high school sweeties to the youngish (now grandparents) that they are today. They have changed so much. They have grown together. They have forgiven each other. They have learned from each other. Wow, I am proud of how far they have come. I have been around for 29 years of their marriage – they have come a long way.
Before I wrap up here, I do want to apologize to my dad. He was being such a pout on my wedding day and saying stuff like, “you don’t need me anymore.” I remember thinking he was crazy! Of course, I will need him! I always will! He knew that big change was coming and I didn’t. He knew that once I became a wife my priorities would change and things wouldn’t be the same.
Now, I’m not apologizing for getting married. And certainly not apologizing for making my husband a priority in my life. But, I am apologizing for not being more sensitive to the concept. Because, now that I am a mom myself, I think about the day my baby boy will get married. I will have the same sad heart. Happy for his happiness but sad that things will be…different. And you just have to let them go no matter how much you don’t want to. You have to let them be adults and start families of their own.