My Personal Memorial Day

unnamed-3Every year while the rest of the country is celebrating Memorial Day, our family is also celebrating my dad’s birthday. There’s a special irony to this because while I fully appreciate and honor what veterans have done for this country, my dad, though not a veteran,  is a hero to me, too.

The stories I could tell about my dad are really not that remarkable or dramatic to anyone but a daughter– but that’s okay. When you need your dad and he’s there–that’s all the hero you  need. Take the time we were skiing together, headed up the mountain on the chairlift and I somehow slipped off, literally hanging onto the edge of the seat, dangling above Gore Mountain.  Fast as a flash, my dad grabbed onto my wrists and held me there like it was nothing until we reached the top. I didn’t think anybody could be stronger than him!  Or how about the time I was running in a track meet, and wanting to beat the girl who was threatening my lead as we approached the finish line, I literally dove, head first. I heard the crowd gasp as I went down onto the asphalt, skinning my knees and elbows to shreds–and as I looked up, there was my dad, in his suit and tie  racing down to the track to rescue me.  (Just for the record, I won.) Or the sandbox he built for my 5th birthday. Or the Richard Scary dolls he helped my sister and I sew together.  The Girl Scout wood- working badge. The desk for my room. Learning to drive. Singing Thunder Road, or A Cat Named Jake and a Dog Named Kalamazoo. Boating. Camping. Coaching soccer.  Of course, these are but a few…because can anyone really number the gifts a dad gives?

And yet, there’s one gift my dad has given me that stands out among the rest: The gift of  Optimism. I like to say that I was born with a sunny disposition; a glass half- full kind of girl. And I was. But the truth is, I inherited a lot of it from my dad.  “The race does not always belong to the swift but to those who keep on running!” Oh Dad, we would groan! Or, “If you never had a bad day, how could you appreciate the good ones?” >insert eye roll here< Or here’s a good one: “The difficult we can do. The impossible take a little longer.” Sigh. You just couldn’t drag him down.

One of my favorite examples of this was the time he drove a couple of hours to pick up a part for my car. When he got there, it turned out it was the wrong part. All that driving for nothing. I felt horrible. But not Dad. “I’d never been to that town before”‘, was all he had to say.  “It was a nice drive.” No whining. No complaining. And that goes for the rest of his life too– he worked hard–at the office and at home. He frequently could be found in his workshop or under the hood of a car, doing all the things dads do. I was impressed. And impressioned. Was anyone smarter or greater than my dad? He gave me an outlook on life that I treasure, that I would need– that I would try to duplicate in my own life.

Now that I’m grown and a parent myself, I see some of Dad’s positive bravado in a different light–not that it’s not genuine–most of it is, I know.  But it’s a sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice to smile on the outside when the weight of your family is pressing on the inside. A mortgage payment. Job pressures. Kid problems. Real life, grown up problems. But you filter it all so that your kids can feel safe. Unfettered and unburdened with the cares of this world. So that kids can be kids–not afraid of life or hard times or bad days.  Because, as my dad likes to say, “If you have money in your pocket and speak the English language, you’ll be fine.”

Dad and I both know he wasn’t a perfect father. Because no one is. But I watch him with my kids now–the pride, the love, the adoration; The sparkle in his eyes as he watches all of us, actually. And I realize, though not a soldier in a war, still a hero in my eyes. Happy Birthday, Dad. And remember, “Old isn’t bad.”

4 thoughts on “My Personal Memorial Day

  1. Robert Bielecki says:

    Well done Julie! You’ve done a remarkable job capturing Dad’s ‘essence.’

    On a side note, re: ‘because can anyone really number the gifts a dad gives?’ I think Mal’s counting 😉


  2. Janie Sperrey says:

    Julie, i love this article you wrote. So wonderful. I had to smile, This is very much my Dad too. Its the thing i would say in a eulogy about him someday. He would always get up in the morning and go to the window and just gaze out for a while. It just made me think of how he always greeted the day with a good outlook. Always the consumate joker too. He would embarrass me as a teenager when we were in a store together and walk up to me and pretend like he could speak Spanish, let me see, how did it go, ‘Eeka sa da aka-nodo’ . It was ridiculously off. I would die and walk away. Then once we got to the checkout. The girl would ask “Sir, do you want your milk in a bag? and He would reply “OH! NO! please keep it in the container! Again, more teenage dread. He’s a generous man as well with his time and money. He would always show me the ‘bright side’ in a tough or sad time in my life. Recently i was whining to him about all the things i wish i could change in my house and how overwhelming it was and He said ‘Hey, anythings an improvement, right?” I appreciate him so much. I just wouldn’t be the person i am without him. The thing about my Dad is his surviving spirit and God’s totally evident grace in his life. He was an orphan and given up at birth and tried to reconnect with his mother at 14, but she refused Him. Then he went through several abusive foster homes.Once, a couple who decided they couldn’t keep him gave him the best Christmas ever and then sent him back to the state home. He cried for months and begged them to take him back. A great thing that happened though, his best friend in high school brought him home one day and pretty instantly his friend’s parents (with 3 kids of their own already in a tiny ranch house) accepted my Dad into their home and he became a part of the family and they were wonderful grandparents to me and my brother when we came along. You mentioned your Dad teaching you to drive. My dad taught me as well. A funny thing happened when he took me out to practice one day in the the office building park where he worked. I was going to park the car upto the building, well i got pedal confusion’ you know that’s a thing…..and layed on the gas instead of the brake and hit the building wall and i looked over at my Dad and he had both his feet up on the dash. He was pretty shocked, but he didn’t yell because that wasn’t him. it was just a short distance and the bumper took the brunt, but we just laughed and laughed and still do to this day. Im so grateful for him. I know he’s my biggest fan and he always tells me what a good driver I am NOW! lol!!!
    I love your writing Julie, its encouraging and inspiring and downright hilarious…XOXO


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