When I decided to go away for college, I had a panic attack after I sent in my acceptance letter. I closed the door to my room and cried, thinking about my teenage brothers and my dad. When I left for college, who would hug and kiss my dad? Who would kiss him goodbye before he left for work or before bedtime? Who would randomly give him hugs? Like every other existential crisis I had, my dad just gave me a few words and pushed me on my way.
I got a lot of things from my dad: my cheeks, my smile, the female version of his family’s nose, my sense of humor, my flair for drama, my lone wolf style, my storytelling. His tact and way with people skipped me and went to my brothers. Bummer. While he teased me about having to put more years into the force since someone had to go to college, I knew he couldn’t have been prouder.
One Sunday when my mom was too sick to go to church, my dad took us across the street to the elementary school. He carried two five gallon buckets brimming with softballs as I carried my mitt and bat and my brothers carried their mitts. He pitched ball after ball to me, teaching me to hit. He never lost patience or got tired of pitching. No matter how bad of a hitter I was.
Then there was the crisis of faith I had a week before my confirmation, wondering if I was doing the right thing, choosing the right faith. My dad sat and listened to a thirteen-year-old kid asking how did one hear the voice of God and would God be angry if I chose the wrong faith. He nodded and then told me that if I couldn’t think of a different faith to go to then I should go right ahead with my confirmation. He assured me that God would lead me to the faith I was meant for, and my dad wasn’t even a Catholic.
My dad can be an intimidating guy, with his cop walk and all. One Monday during my freshman year in high school, my dad came early to pick me up from swim practice because Monday nights were Boy Scout nights. My dad came dressed in his Boy Scout leader uniform. As we walked to the car, we walked by three damn-we’re-tough-and-cool teenage boys smoking their cigarettes trying to look like rebels. The minute my dad made eye contact with them, those boys snapped to attention, hiding their cigarettes behind their back. The leader of the pack said, “Good evening, sir. How are you?” For years I tried to emulate that walk.
But the night that sticks in my mind was the night I got to hang out with my dad. I arrived home around midnight after a babysitting job to find my dad waiting for me, not even pretending to go to bed as he usually did. I popped into the family room to give him a kiss goodnight to find that he was watching Bill Cosby Himself. “Sit down, Fae. The first time I saw this I nearly peed my pants laughing.” So I sat down and nearly peed my pants laughing. From the night on, when I came home late, my dad was there, and we would talk. I’d listen to all his amazing stories or get his opinion on politics or matters in my life.
The one thing I miss now that we moved here is that there are no more late night discussions. There is always some one around. Sure, we find time to talk. But it’s different when it’s night and everyone’s sleeping. And it’s just the two of you. When it comes to measuring myself up against a pole, it’s my dad that I measure myself up against. It’s my dad that I want to make proud, that I don’t want to disappoint. I’m sure he would hate knowing that because all he ever wanted was for us kids to live the life we wanted, not the life my mom envisioned. I never thought I was a daddy’s girl. Until I wrote this. As I end this I remember all the other memories that I have with my dad, and I could go on and on, telling tales just like my dad.