Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad

My husband and I visited my parents over Memorial Day weekend. As usual, we found ourselves spending most of the time together sitting around the kitchen table, just talking. I don't think the television or stereo were turned on the entire time we were there; conversation with Mom and Dad is normally much more entertaining than anything a national media outlet could provide.

We had a great time. But Sunday morning, sort of out of the blue, my father asked me a question and he sounded serious. "Sarah, do you think I get mad a lot?" I didn't really think about the answer as much as I should have, and after a second I responded.
"I don't think you get mad, necessarily, but you get upset. Yes, I would say you have a short temper."

And if you had grown up in our house, you probably would have thought the same thing. So many times we were screamed at for leaving lights on in empty rooms, pouring juice over the kitchen floor instead of walking two more feet to the counter, leaving water running, leaving our stuff outside in the rain, failing to finish chores we had put off for days...typical careless kid-like behavior got us into some nasty dinner table "discussions."

But here's the thing with my dad. There have been so many, many other times when he could have--and maybe should have--screamed and yelled and instead played it cool, talked it out with us, or stayed quiet and let us figure things out on our own (and most likely vented about it with Mom when we weren't around).

There was the time I nearly failed AP English because I was a senior and I was sick of school and I didn't like that teacher, so I quit writing papers. I just stopped. Don't pass English in high school and you don't graduate, but I was an idiot and had grown tired of deadlines and what I mistakenly thought at the time was hard work. I was stunned to come home one afternoon and find my dad already home from work. I was more stunned to discover that he had chatted with Mr. Franks, my English teacher. Dad could've called me every name in the book, but instead he just quietly told me how disappointed he was and wanted to know why I was wasting the last few months of a long, mostly good, school career. That conversation kicked me in the ass, I made up a few assignments, and pulled out a 4 on the AP test.

There was also the time that I completely totaled my car when, in the middle of I-75, I rammed right into a reclining chair followed by an unforgiving steel guardrail. It was a freak accident and thankfully I was both alone and unharmed. But I had stupidly leased the car rather than purchased it, and I received approximately zero dollars from the insurance agency. Despite the urge he surely must have been fighting, Dad did not kill me or even tell me what a jackass I was for getting into this financial nightmare. Instead he visited his credit union and sent me a check so I could buy a used car, finish grad school, and get myself back on my feet.

My brother, sister, and I weren't terrible kids. We were decent students, we were usually pretty nice to other people, we didn't lead lives of crime. But we each had our share of dumb stunts, terrible ideas, and dangerous situations that would have angered and stressed out any parent. We are so lucky to have both a mom and a dad who could still see potential despite all of our screw-ups and calmly pushed us on through to adulthood. I hope my kids can be half as lucky. And if they think I get mad a lot because I yell at them for "leaving the door wiiide open" or "pourin' on the run," I just hope they forget about it when I help them get through college, move them into their first house, or dance with them at their wedding.

Thanks, Dad, for everything. Happy Father's Day!

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