When I first began brainstorming a post for Father’s Day, I had a different sort of piece in mind. Something funny but captivating, anecdotal but relatable, perhaps bordering on the irreverent (at times), but a post that was, overall, immensely grateful for the considerable role our dads, brothers, grandfathers, teachers all play in our lives. Then, last Sunday morning happened. And as I read more and more accounts of the horrors that transpired in Orlando, as I thought about the parents who had lost children, about the children who had lost parents, finding the right words—for anything—seemed impossible.
So, I did what I always do when the world seems scary and confusing. I made a cup of tea, and I called my dad. I’ve got a really great relationship with my dad. He’s always been there when I’ve needed him—editing English papers, reviewing job applications, offering gentle advice when I was questioning a relationship—and even when I didn’t. My freshman year of college, I called him every single day, just to tell him about what I had learned in my classes. You know the person you are so excited to tell first when something wonderful happens? That’s my dad.
Anyone who knows me well, or anyone who’s been skiing with me, knows that I’m not the most fearless person in the world. I often need a delicate amount of encouragement (sometimes, a firm push) when I’m contemplating the unfamiliar. “Try it, you’ll like it,” my dad usually says. “See how it goes.”
When I was younger: “Try this guacamole,” handing me a chip covered in dubious green mush. (I now eat an avocado every day.)
In high school: “Try out cross country,” when it became clear that my international soccer career wasn’t going to pan out. (I’m training for my third marathon.)
In college: “Try a major in art, not science, like I did.” (That degree turned into a dream job.)
After school: “Try moving to Chicago, I bet you’ll like the architecture and the people.” (I love the architecture, almost as much as I love the people.)
Over the years, I’ve learned that my dad usually knows me better than I know myself. Still, he’s got a special way of encouraging me down a path of self-discovery, and helping me feel that all of my decisions are my own. He knows just the right thing to say to melt away all that anxiety, and give me the confidence I need to go out there and make things happen. “Just try it, you’ll like it,” he says. And he’s always right. Well...except for golf. I still don’t like golf (sorry, Dad).
We’ve all got people like my dad in our own lives. Just this morning, I was listening to a podcast about a woman from New York City who had a special relationship with her doorman. He would look out for her when she came home late, offer his candid opinion on the men she was dating and, when she became unexpectedly pregnant, watched out for her like she was his own daughter. “There’s family you’re related to by blood, and then there’s family you bring into your life by choice,” the podcast explained. Sometimes, we find family in the most unexpected places.
In the end, the people who love us and support us are the people who matter most. And it’s that same level of love, support and encouragement that I want to provide for everyone I meet. So, here’s to the dads, grandpas, uncles, brothers, cousins, teachers, co-workers, bus drivers, doormen and the Trader Joe’s checkout guys. Thanks for being there we need to talk. Thanks for telling us to try to be brave; that it’s worth it. Thanks for giving us courage, especially in times like these.
Happy Father’s Day!