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An Ode to the dads who show up

Trying to speak honestly about the relationship I have with my dad can feel icky.

It’s complicated — and I’m sure many of you can relate. When we talk about having an honest conversation, we can automatically think about the hard stuff, the sore spots that still ache from time to time. It would be easy to tell you the challenges we’ve been through, the changing dynamics in the last 10 years, the struggles I have with trying to control and change him and my work toward setting healthy boundaries for myself to break the codependency patterns we’ve created.

But in a season of life where there has been so much loss and grief around me, I just want to talk about how thankful I am to have him in my life. In a year when my husband has lost his father, I just want to talk about how fortunate we both are to have a father who loves both of us and wishes the best for us every day. On a day when my boss is in the office next to me making arrangements for his father’s unexpected passing, I just want to talk about how thankful I am for my dad’s health and vitality.

Nope, my Dad isn’t perfect and neither am I. We fight because we’re both stubborn and sensitive, but we also laugh and love hard. We find joy in small things and we celebrate often because we know life is short. Yeah, I got a lot of his not so desirable traits — sensitive skin, tons of freckles, fiery temper, flat feet and zero patience. But I also got his big personality, charm, outgoing nature, zest for life and love for music.

I’ll take the bad because it’s worth the good. I know so many women who never had a father in their life, women who don’t see or speak to their father (either by their choice or his) and I know women who’ve lost their fathers and regret not having been close to them before they died.

I’m fortunate to say my father has always been in my life — either from a distance or from a mile down the road — and I’ve never gone a day without knowing he loves me. Maybe he hasn’t always shown up as his best self, but at least he shows up. He calls to check in, he calls to go have lunch or a beer, he calls for me to come eat when he's made some barbecue, slaw and beans and he comes over to watch my dogs when we go out of town.

We don't always see eye to eye. I don't hesitate to tell him how wrong he is on a regular basis. In return he doesn't hesitate to tell me how naive I am and how I don't understand because I don't have children of my own.

All I can say is we never stop trying to get it right.

“Cardboard masks of all the people I've been

Thrown out with all the rusted, tangled

dented God Damned miseries

You could say I'm hard to hold

But if you knew me you'd know

I've got a good father

And his strength is what makes me cry

Feet on ground, heart in hand

Facing forward, be yourself

I've, I've never wanted anything”

— Jann Arden

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