On Father’s Day

My dad and I haven’t always had the best relationship. When I was a kid, he was neither the nurturer nor the disciplinarian (my mom filled both roles, somehow), he worked hard and traveled often. My memories of him are a backyard full of the weekend type: Dad working in the yard, baseball cap and old jeans; Dad repairing a fence; Dad on vacation. I don’t mean to say that as an insult or to say he was a bad parent, and I can’t say that I was the sweetest angel of a daughter either (especially in the years 12-18). But a strange part of growing up is getting to know who your parents are as people, and seeing their flaws, strengths and how they’ve changed. Now that I am in my 20s, we have a great relationship, and I’m so lucky. Here are four things my dad taught me (most of them indirectly) that I am so thankful for.

 

Your destiny is not predetermined. My dad had a less-than-ideal childhood in a small town in Northern California. He could very well have gotten a job in a small business or trade and stayed there, but he didn’t. He started his own business, and had the guts and tenacity to stick with it until a decade later it started to grow. In the same vein, my father somehow rose out of a difficult family situation with amazing good sense and an open heart. He proves that no one has to live in the metaphorical tire tracks of family legacies of hurt, abuse or small-mindedness.

Love is something that happens to you — let it. This is a story that starts before I was born, but I’ll stick with the contemporary part: A few weeks after my mom died, my dad told me he was dating someone. Through the veil of grief, I took this as a personal attack on my mother, a sign he didn’t really love her, an absolute betrayal. Not until much later did I realize that his actions over the previous 25 years showed how much he loved my mom, and there was no way he could have gone out looking for a date. Rather, he met a woman and they clicked. And he let it happen. Love’s just weird like that. Now they’re married, and I have a stepmom, a new brother and sister, and a huge family of aunts, uncles and cousins. And I’m so grateful for their presence in my dad’s life and mine.

Hard work pays off. My dad’s first job was pumping gas. Today, he works with Fortune 500 companies. He regularly meets with people who work for Amazon or Disney. Having lived in a wide variety of the income and class spectrum, he accepts no excuses from me: “Have you looked for a job at Google?” he asks. “Have you applied for anything at Dow Jones?” I can’t tell if he’s oblivious to the fact that I just graduated from a state school or has some kind of incredible faith in my skills, but either way, I appreciate it.

Never accept security in lieu of what you really want. Now nearly 50, my dad has a job that allows him to live quite comfortably (I’d venture to say that if 6-year-old Joe saw it, he’d call it riches). After decades of work, he sold his business to a larger company and went to work for them. But he’s been unfulfilled in his work for some time, and recently resigned. He has a mortgage, wife and two college-aged stepchildren, but he was unwilling to accept personal misery for a paycheck at this point in his life. More importantly, he has the faith and courage to step out of a comfortable spot into an unknown. I have no doubt he’ll find something amazing.

 

So thanks, Dad, for these things and more. Our tee time is at 4:32. Happy Father’s Day.

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