I know a lot of people, especially daughters, think they have the best dad, but I do. He's the BEST! I have discussed many times with his mother before she passed away, just how wonderful my dad and his siblings are. She and Grandpa were the most honest, kind, and loving people I've ever known and they passed those qualities on to their children.
Dad is the second of five, the oldest boy in three. While growing up, there was no place I would rather have been than by his side, whether he was fishing, building or growing something, or waiting in his office for his next patient to arrive. We spent lots of time "exploring". He loved to pack us all up in our VW van with snorkeling and tubing gear, fishing poles, picnic food and just head out with no destination in mind. There was always somewhere fabulous at the end of whichever route we took from our Central Florida home. As a Florida native familiar with the area long before Disney and the major attractions were even on the drawing board, he knew every back road and swimming hole. I learned my way around by sight long before I ever got the road and highway names memorized because of the out of the way places we frequented with Dad.
My earliest memories involve my dad and the land we lived on in orange grove country. My grandfather had always wanted to own an orange grove, so he found one available with a large house, lake, and outbuildings on the property. When my dad graduated from college when I was three weeks old, we moved into the house on "the farm", as it was called in our family. I remember a huge Live Oak behind the house and him nailing a big catfish he'd caught in the lake to that tree to clean it. We moved to Orlando when I was two and Dad opened his chiropractic office. I can still remember the smell of new construction as he carried me through the halls on my first tour.
When his practice opened, I stayed there with my parents in my own little playroom until I was school aged. When Dad didn't have any patients, he'd let me go into his office and would fix me a half cup of coffee with lots of sugar and LOTS of milk in a styrofoam cup. I thought it was the best thing I'd ever tasted and that is exactly where my coffee addiction began.
I wasn't one to play with dolls much, didn't collect Barbies, thought Cabbage Patch Kids looked downright creepy, and Strawberry Shortcake and friends made me gag. As a child, I loved being outside (all the time), tree climbing with my sister and cousin, and being anywhere my dad was. He was the kind of dad who was always involved. He read stories, especially from his mother's Uncle Remus book, accent and all, took us kite flying at a local park, backpacking in the Ocala Forest, snorkelling in springs, fishing at 5 a.m. from his motor boat, canoeing, sailing, camping, hiking, air shows, night fishing from piers, Shuttle launches...you name it!
My grandfather bought a 38 foot sailboat a few years before I was born. He and his sons spent hours on that boat with upkeep and just having fun in the sun. I loved to ride over to the coast with Dad in his little, red Opal GT. He'd let me shift gears for him from the passenger seat. After working on the boat, before we'd leave the marina there was always a stop at the nearby playground where we would count train cars as the train would come rolling through. When I was a teenager and was certain that I would be a marine biologist and spend my life studying the wild dolphins of the Indian River, there were stops at Astronaut Park to watch for them. I'll never forget the night we spent on the boat while it was docked in the marina. It was the only time we kids were allowed to sleep aboard her, though Dad, his dad and brothers took her to the Bahamas and back. I'd spent my life up to that point, playing on her decks and sipping grape sodas from the marina soda machine, but that night we didn't leave before dark. We hunkered down near the galley and had our dinner. Dad told us the story of the Hush Puppy and how a sailor had invented them by tossing bits of fried fish breading to his begging puppy. I remember climbing into the bunk in the bow across from my sister and letting that boat rock me to sleep. In the morning there were pancakes cooked on the boat's gas stove. I can still see the blue flames.
When I had my heart broken for the first time, there was Dad, the only one. He didn't say a word, just patted me on the shoulder as he walked by. That was all I needed. When I had my first baby, there was Dad, on a plane crossing from one corner of the country to the other even though he hates to fly. He arrived within two hours of our hospital homecoming. In a suitcase brought specifically for the purpose, he'd packed a rocking horse he had built with his own two hands for my son. He had constructed it in pieces and then assembled it in our living room. When my husband graduated from college, Dad turned around and made the same trip again, as proud as if it were his own son. My boys' first sleepover, it was at Dad's. Who was sitting in a chair nearby the last time I saw my Grandma, when I had to say goodbye and in her dimentia, she didn't even know that it was the last time we'd see each other? Dad, smiling reassuringly. He's always been there. He made sure he was always there and not because it was the right thing to do, but because he genuinely wanted to be.
It's Father's Day and I spent it spoiling my husband with our boys. It was a great day, but I wasn't able to get a hold of Dad. I called and was only able to leave a message. I emailed, not the same as talking to him. I think someone, everyone, anyone who stumbles across my blog should know just how great he is, and these few words can't even begin to describe what he means to me and how necessary his love and giving have been in my life. I honestly don't know what my life would have looked like if he hadn't been so amazing.