It will come as no surprise to my dad that this column is running after Father's Day. After all, his card is never on time and this year is no exception. It's not a dad thing; it's just me. I am never on time with things like that. I may have them bought and signed but I never actually get them in the mail on time.
I couldn't let the week go by without a proper tribute to my dad though. He lives in Tennessee now, so we didn't get to spend Father's Day together but I of course called him and wished him a good day. I am a daddy's girl after all. Always have been, always will be. I don't know why that is, it has just always been that way, my whole life.
I loved my mom, but my dad is who I have always gone to with problems, and he is the person I remember spending the most time with as a kid. Of course he is also the person I always went to when I wanted something as a kid. Want a friend to spend the night? Ask Dad. Want money to go to the Dairy Mart for a soda and junk food? Ask Dad. Of course he quickly became wise to this and I got the standard "Did you ask your mother?" response. Shot down. Although usually he did tell me I could get change off his dresser to run to the Dairy Mart on my bike.
My dad is also the hardest worker I know -- both of my parents worked hard. Dad is now 75, and he is still always worried about mowing the lawn, painting the house, staining the deck and other physical labor he should be delegating. I think is parents should have given him the middle name "stubborn" because it's fitting.
Growing up in North Carolina, it didn't matter that it was 95 degrees and humid, he would still mow the lawn, wash and wax the cars, weed, water the lawn and a myriad of other outdoor work on the weekends and in the evenings sometimes. Like I said, hardest worker I know. Mom was always sending me out with a big cup of ice water for him while she did the laundry and house cleaning.
We lived 10-15 minutes from the beach, so often mom would plead with him to take the day off and go to the beach -- so there were times they indulged in spending the morning and afternoon at the beach, or if he got things done on Saturday, Sundays would be spent at the beach. Dad was the one who would stay in the water with me. I was always a water baby and they didn't like me being in the water without one of them until I got a little older.
Before we moved to NC, when I was 8-years-old, Dad had taken a new job and went down ahead of mom and I while she stayed to sell the house in Mogadore. Dad would write me postcards and send me cards telling me he missed me and about things we could do when Mom and I came to visit. I still have most of them to this day. I remember when he would come home from a business trip he usually brought me a present, but even more than that I remember him sitting and reading to me or with me, playing games, even playing in the snow with me.
When I got sick, Dad always took care of me. Mom couldn't handle being around sickness (a trait I inherited from her) so it was Dad who held my hair back when I had the flu, cleaned up my mess and crushed ice for me. When I get sick now as an adult I call him -- even hundreds of miles away -- and tell him to crush me some ice. He always laughs and says "OK" but honestly just talking to him makes me feel a little better. He has spent countless hours in emergency rooms with me, either from illness or due to my klutzy nature.
Dad's caregiving skills didn't just extend to me. When Mom was sick with cancer, there aren't words to describe how amazing he was with her. He was there every step of the way for her. Nurses, friends, family and the caregiver we hired to help all commented to me how incredibly impressed with him they were.
The caregiver, a family friend, told me once "You are going to have a very hard time finding a man." Puzzled and a little shocked, I asked her what she meant and she explained that if the old adage was true and women look for qualities their fathers possess, any man in my life would have a lot to live up to. She wasn't wrong. My dad was so incredibly strong for her and he did everything in his power to make her comfortable, and keep her spirits up. His capacity to love is unparalleled.
There are so many memories I cherish I can't possibly share them all, but one of my favorite stories I share is the day I got my dog Pepper. I had been wanting a dog for a couple of years. I was out of high school, taking a year off before college and living with my parents. My mom wasn't keen on the idea.
My dad loves dogs but never likes to admit it. I was at Petsmart because a local humane society was there for an adoption fair and I found this black lab puppy. It was a Saturday and my dad had worked half a day and was on his way home. I called his cell phone and asked him just to stop by the store because I wanted to show him something. He resisted but ultimately came. He walked over to me where I was holding Pepper in my arms and shook his head.
He got to me and I promptly plopped Pepper into his hands and said "here hold this" turned around and started filling out the paperwork. My dad responded with "Oh shoot," or rather, an expletive I can't print, but you get the idea. That was it. I had a puppy.
Upon the approval of the application, Dad left me to finish picking up the necessities: leash, food, bowls, etc. and said he was going to buy movie tickets because he was going to have to take my mom out for dinner and movie, which he did. Mom grew to love Pepper and quite frankly, while I was his mom (he slept in my room, I took him everywhere) my dad ultimately became his master. Especially when I moved to Ohio for college and had to leave him behind. I knew he was in good hands.
People have called me spoiled and though I disagree, there are definitely things I wouldn't have had in my life or accomplished without my dad. I would never have had Pepper, my first car, a college degree or countless other things. But more important than "stuff" I wouldn't have my work ethic, I wouldn't know what a good man truly is, and I might not have seen what true love looks like. Dad, there aren't words enough to say what you mean to me, but I love you and am so grateful you are my dad.
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432