Dad. It’s such a simple title. According to Webster, “dad” is defined as “a person’s father.”
Dad. It takes three letters to spell and three words to describe. Yet, in my mind, there is so much more to the man I know as “Dad.”
If you were to ask me to choose one name by which to call my father, I would probably choose “teacher.” That’s right—I’d abandon the more common “dad,” “daddy,” and “papa” in favor of this more unique term. I’m sure you want to know why—and I’d love to provide you with a few stories.
When I was just a few days old, my dad brought me home from the hospital, swaddled in a pink blanket with a matching hat covering my incredibly bald head. He stood in our driveway, cradling me in his right arm, clutching a balloon in his left. He looked up to the clear blue sky, released the balloon, and watched it drift up, up, up. He then whispered, “In this life, you will go as far as that balloon—nothing will ever hold you back.” That day, my dad taught me my first lesson: Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from following your dreams—Release yourself and soar.
As the years went by, he continued to act as not only my father, but also my teacher. Because of him, the first word I could recognize and spell was “Auburn”—his alma mater would’ve been so proud! He taught me how to signal a touchdown, my chubby little arms reaching high into the air as I wobbled around our living room, giggling at his happiness.
I can remember my dad driving me home from ballet practice—I was nestled in the back seat, staring out the window at an absolutely horrific snowstorm. He was driving so slowly, so carefully, leaning forward over the steering wheel, trying desperately to make-out the lines on the road. He must’ve glanced at me in the rearview mirror and noticed the frightened look on my face. He pulled off to the side of the road, looked at me over his shoulder, and said, “Hey! We aren’t lost—we’re on an adventure!” My heart, which had been beating so rapidly, nervously in my tight little chest suddenly felt lighter—an adventure! How fun! From then on, whenever I started to lose my way, I just thought of my dad and his perception that we’re never really lost—we’re just on our next adventure.
My dad taught me how to ride a bike, gently pushing me down a small incline, then running alongside me to make sure I didn’t crash. He showed me how to make Frito Pie, a delicious delicacy only to be served and discussed when Mom was out of town. He helped me with my Algebra homework, taking off his wire-rim glasses and setting them on the kitchen table, rubbing his eyes with both hands, trying to recollect his own high school math lessons. He gave me my first driving lesson, the two of us yelling at each other as I lurched and jerked through an empty church parking lot. He took me to tour different universities, encouraging me to choose the school based on my future goals. He taught me how to load a Honda Civic, a Ford Explorer, a 17’ U-Haul Truck—it really is just a large-scale version of Tetris—so I could move to Cincinnati, Fort Thomas, Houston. He helped me to mend more than one broken heart.
And today, just like he did when I was less than a week old, he continues to tell me to follow my dreams.
So you see, “dad” is just a title. A three letter word with a beautifully complex definition. My dad isn’t the only version of a father—others have the same type of relationship with an uncle or granddaddy, older brother or family friend. Some rely on their soccer coach or guidance counselor, while others learn from a role model or mentor. We all have a unique, precious version of “dad” in our lives—and it is time to thank and celebrate him this weekend.
Happy Father’s Day—I love you, Dad.