When I was little, my dad worked at a Texaco gas station. The Texaco patch on his shirt looked exactly like the sheriffs badges I'd seen on the TV, so I thought he was really a sheriff. I would lay pillows on the floor when he came home so he could rest because mom said he worked really hard. And he was tired when he came home - my dad worked at least two jobs for many years. But no matter how tired he was or how soon he had to go to his next job, he would always take a minute to lay down on my pillows and snuggle me. I was growing up with parents who always made us feel so loved.
My dad was a truck driver for most of my life, but he was never one of those guys you'd see in greasy pants and a ratty old tshirt. Even though he worked hard and got dirty, he left the house everyday in clean work pants and a fresh shirt my mom ironed. This taught me to take pride in myself.
It was the job of my sister and I to polish Dad's shoes every night before bed. Sometimes, we'd leave notes or pictures in his shoes for him. Sometimes, though, we'd put a surprise in his shoes for him to find as he was leaving for work at 2AM and trying to be quiet. Bottle caps were our favorite shoe surprise. Bottle caps always brought a visit from the Tickle Monster when dad got home. This taught me that having a sense of humor can be the most wonderful thing.
Dad didn't always drive truck for big companies with fancy logos all over their trucks. Back then he mostly drove for small companies. So dad would make his own signs with the name of the company he was driving for. Even as a child, I knew Dad had beautiful handwriting and printing. We would sit for hours at the kitchen table watching him carefully measure out the words on posterboard and then painstakingly draw out all the letters with a black MarksALot marker. We were always very careful not to bump the table. Then we'd drive out to The Garage - a concrete block building where dad and my uncles stored their trucks, and the site of many childhood adventures - and help him put the signs on the doors of his truck. We never left until the job was done right: a beautiful, handlettered sign on each door edged by a perfect tape frame. This taught me to take pride in whatever you do and that even mundane tasks are reflections on the kind of pride you have in your work.
Dad has an interest in cars and racing that should have cosmic-ly entitled him to at least one son. Instead, he got two blond haired girls. Other than the time I used the distributor cap from his truck as a crayon holder, we pretty much grew up learning everything a brother would have learned about cars. We just did it while wearing white lacy socks and remaining clean, an homage to my June Cleaver mother. This taught me girls can learn anything - and still be girls.
When my first boyfriend broke up with me in junior high, dad consoled me by telling me I was beautiful and made me laugh by saying he'd be my boyfriend. Whenever I pulled the indignant-teenage-girl act (which was very rarely, what with me being the perfect child and all), dad would bump into me or get in my way until there was nothing else to do but laugh and stop being a witch. This taught me that with three women in the house, my father was a saint.
When the cutest customer I had at the ice cream stand one summer arrived for our first date, my parents invited him in. I was always proud of how respectful and kind my parents were to my friends, which is why all my friends loved my folks. We chatted and Dad excused himself at one point. He was gone for a bit. When he came back, he went to the hall closet and took out the card table. He smiled and brought it into the living room, asking what card game we'd like to play because we would be staying in for the evening. I was shocked. I'm sure my date handled the situation far better than I. I remember he stayed late and seemed to truly enjoy himself. My dad walked him out to the driveway at the end of the evening, and stood chatting with him for a moment. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but he shook my dad's hand before driving away. I was mortified and refused to speak to my father for a week, even when he explained that no daughter of his was going on a date with a guy who drove a van. And had bald tires. This taught me to do what you know is right - even when certain people will make you pay for it. Oh, and that sometimes I could be an unreasonable witch.
When I went to college, dad tucked Snickers bars and money into every crevice of my suitcase. Then while mom and I were getting me settled in, he scoured the campus for a mature guy he could trust to keep an eye on me in case I needed anything.
Dad was a Depression-era farm boy who loved living in the country. I remember finding him looking out the window of my first apartment in Columbus. When I asked what was wrong, he said he couldn't understand why anyone would want to live in the city. I gave him a hug. It was the first time I ever had to console my dad instead of the other way around. And it taught me that even when I'm grown up, I'm never to old or too far away to feel like daddy's little girl.
Happy Fathers Day, dad. You are still my guiding beacon for how to live a right and good life. And this little girl couldn't love you more.