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17 June 2012

For my father

Today is Fathers' Day. For the last 7 years, I've only been able to "celebrate" this day with a phone call home. Living 700 miles away prevents me from giving my dad the huge hug and kiss that he deserves on this special day dedicated to the greatness of fathers. This makes me a little sad.

I recognize that not all people have had the privilege of having a great father. Some even haven't had a father at all. And realizing this makes my value and honor my father all the more. I am lucky to have him in my life, and the fact that he has been an amazing father only makes me all the more appreciative. What is the most astounding for me is that my father had amazingly poor role models for parenting, yet he has turned out to be an amazing father. It's almost as if he saw all that his parents did wrong and vowed to never do the same. While it makes me sad that my father didn't have the wonderful parenting that I've been lucky enough to experience, I'm glad that he turned out the way he did.  

My dad wasn't a perfect dad. He made mistakes along the way, but he taught me the value of persistence and dedication because he never gave up on anything or any of us. Even when we had tested the limits beyond all reason, he has always loved us and been there to guide us. And, let's be real. A few of us tested him far beyond what any reasonable person could take. But he loved us and still loves us. He's our father, and he's there to show us the right path, even when we refuse to see it ourselves.

Dad and I dancing in a room filled with some God-awful wallpaper. 
My father taught me the value of hard work because he never gave us anything growing up. That sounds harsh and mean, but it's not. He gave us food, shelter, clothing, unconditional love, and amazing experiences. But when I wanted my first car when all of my friends' parents were buying them new cars, I had to buy my own with my savings. When I wanted new techy gadgets and other things that fell firmly into the "want, not need" category, I had to earn them myself. Of course I resented this when I was younger, but I realized quite early how valuable this was. And it has shaped me into the person I am now. To this day, I value hard work and enjoying the fruits of my labor over being handed gifts and awards that I'm undeserving of.

My father taught me a respect and reverence for the natural world that surrounds me. As a hunter and an outdoorsman, my father made it a part of our raising that we respect nature. I'm sure that's where my environmentalism started. We were taught to tread lightly, to leave no trace, and to appreciate all that nature provides us with.

My father taught me to respect my heritage and my history. I can remember so many afternoons when Dad and I would jump into his truck and take a drive through NY and PA, Dad narrating his family history and childhood antics. I didn't have the opportunity to know most of my dad's family, but, through his stories, I feel like I do know them. He shared stories about his cousins, his aunts and uncles. his friends, and just growing up in general. Those afternoons with my dad are some of the fondest memories I have of my childhood.

My father taught me to be a patriot, but not an unquestioning one. My father is a proud Vietnam Veteran, and this was something I always knew about. I've had some great conversations with my dad about his service, and it has made a distant and unreal sacrifice far more concrete and understandable. Because of my father, I have a deep and reverential respect for military service. And I'm proud of that.

My father taught me about commitment. My father taught me that when you make a commitment, you follow it through. Of course, I've struggled with this (obviously with a failed marriage!), but I know the importance of following through with the promises we make. My father has always worked hard to keep his promises to my mom, my brothers and sister, and all of the people he has worked with in a variety of capacities. Even when it is difficult, he works his hardest to fulfill his commitments. Aside from my abandoning of the bad marriage, I work hard to meet all of the commitments that I make.

My father taught me to appreciate good music. While my friends were listening to pop rock and other garbage (I hate to be judgmental), I was listening to CCR and The Eagles and other great classic rock music. To this day, I appreciate the older stuff far more than the newer stuff.

My father also taught me to love. He has always been there to support me, even when he disagrees with my decisions. He readily tells us he loves us and always has an embrace for us. His love has showed me what love is: devotion, dedication, compromise, and joy.

Happy Fathers' Day, Poppo! Thank you for all of the gifts you give us each and every day. I love you.
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