That first Christmas morning after my mom died, my dad struggled with gift giving. Yet, as I shared in this post, I knew my dad was simply doing the best he knew how to do, much the same way I knew the words, “keep one in the chamber” at the end of all our phone conversations were synonymous with “be careful, I love you.”
The other morning, on the drive to work, the radio station I was listening to was asking listeners (in honor of Father’s Day) to call in and share the best advice their dads had given them. I smiled because I wondered how well the two examples I immediately thought of would go over if I called in and shared them on air. “Keep one in the chamber” that was the first one I thought of… I wouldn’t necessarily call it the “best” advice but it was certainly advice I have never ever forgotten.
The other example, in comparison, was much much better advice… “If you don’t start, you’ll never have to stop.” My dad grew up with an alcoholic father and he’d often tell me this. I wish I’d heeded his advice. I haven’t had a drink in nearly 17 years…but “stopping” was, hands down, one of the hardest journeys I’ve ever been on.
My dad was far from perfect. He had his share of racist attitudes and was highly bigoted towards anyone who didn’t share his excessively right wing beliefs. And yet, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was loving me, his daughter, the best way he knew how.
As I sit here this morning, reminiscing, I don’t ever want to forget the times along the journey when my dad’s love for me shined brighter and more beautiful than all the cracks, flaws, and dysfunction. Here are two of those times.
When I developed a horrible case of strep throat in college. The University medical clinic prescribed the wrong medicine and the infection continued to get worse and the pain became excruciating. While curled up in a fetal position, I called my dad and groaned…”I am in so much pain; I don’t know what to do.” He drove the 80 mile trip up to rescue me, took me to the emergency room, and then drove me back to his house and nursed me back to health for the next several days.I wrote about it here.
When I finally became willing to divulge just how bad things had gotten in my first marriage. I picked up that heavy phone and through trembling tears I cried out for help. Dad, I’ve got to get out of here. There was no “I told you so” lectures, although I deserved them. Instead, he met my pain and desperation with compassion…I’m here for you…let’s figure out what needs to be done.
I am grateful for the imperfect dad I had in my life.
He loved me the best he knew how.
Sometimes, as you look back, that’s more than enough.