My father’s magnum opus: raising his children

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Dads make a big difference.

Whether it is the loving presence of a father or the lack of one, that figure makes a huge impact on our lives.

I am blessed to many good fathers, but, of course, my own father has been the shining standard of what it means to be a protector, provider, joke-teller and bad-day-fixer.

For those of you who do not know my dad, and the more I get to know East County, the more I realize how many of you already do, let me introduce you.

Dads make a big difference.

Whether it is the loving presence of a father or the lack of one, that figure makes a huge impact on our lives.

I am blessed to many good fathers, but, of course, my own father has been the shining standard of what it means to be a protector, provider, joke-teller and bad-day-fixer.

For those of you who do not know my dad, and the more I get to know East County, the more I realize how many of you already do, let me introduce you.

Firstly, you should know that my dad is the kind of man who is not into Father’s Day. He just does not like the fuss, though he is always happy for an excuse to grill something.

My dad is the man who will stay late at an event to help put away chairs and clear tables. He’s the man you want to live next door to, no matter who you are, because he will treat you the same way he would want to be treated. He is always willing to lend a hand or stop for a chat, not because he has to or because he believes in some idealistic world where everyone gets along — no, my dad just has a very balanced sense of decency and being neighborly is what he does.

My dad is the man who cherishes knowledge, so much so that he imparted the love of learning to his children without us even realizing it. Dad made discovering the world an adventure, from the early morning hikes around San Diego’s backcountry to the long road trips in the back of his Toyota Landcruiser to the books under his coffee table detailing far-away places that he would read to us at night when we would wake up from a bad dream. Craddled in his strong arms with nothing but the stillness of the house to keep us company, I would watch him turn page after page, wanting to see the world he was seeing.

My dad is the man whose dreams are in the stars but whose heart is in the soil, and there he toils to build a home for his family. Growing up, he would work multiple jobs to keep the family afloat, never too proud to do a paper run or work at a pizza parlor. As his field has developed, he has continued investing time into his work to make it prosper and grow. He has never been above an honest paycheck or extra hours on the clock, and his reward has been decades in the making: seven children who all understand the value of hardwork.

My dad is the man who is always home for dinner. He is the man who helps his wife do the dishes and then helps his kids with their homework. And by always being fully present at home when we were growing up, he created an anchor of stability in his children so that now, even as we are all adults, coming home to see him is a joy and an honor.

My dad is the man who can tell a thousand un-funny jokes and get a laugh every time. Sure, maybe it is a laugh and a groan, but his enthusiasm and the sparkle of fun in his eyes makes him universally entertaining to even the saltiest human beings.

My dad is the man who sees when there is a problem, and instead of jumping ship and swimming to safer shores, he takes the helm and rights the wrong. He is the kind of leader who inspires others to be leaders, too.

My dad is the man who pins a Babe Ruth quote above his work desk and anyone who passes it knows it is there because this man truly believes it: “It’s hard to beat a man who never gives up.”

I am pretty sure ol’ Babe was talking about my dad anyway.

And for the record, next to that quote is a velociraptor sighting warning, because my dad is that man also.

My dad was a good father in the typical respects, in that he was involved in our lives. He helped coach our debate team, and he took us to church every Sunday. He was a little overly protective of his daughters in high school and was quietly judgemental of his sons during their frosted tips phase, but he was completely supportive of every manner of pet we brought into the house, and even went to bat for the iguana we caught in our neighborhood when mom was ready to have it shot (the iguana was eventually moved to a more suitable home and none of us got salmonella from the scratches).

Every morning growing up, my siblings and I would rush from our beds at the sound his car engine turning on so we could say goodbye to him before work. We would line up next to his window in our pajamas with matted hair and he would look at us with such tenderness and such seriousness, it made my heart stand still.

And he would say, “fear the Lord.”

That has been my father’s greatest gift to me. Because my dad is the man who walks his faith. God is not a curse word to him and the Bible is not something he uses in a political argument to buy good will or to insist that he is in the right. It is not a culture or a way of life — it is life, the whole of it. And because my dad showed my that faith can be lived genuinely and sincerely, I have the confidence to live a life of faith too, by the grace of God.

There are a lot of expectations that fathers should fit a certain mold. There is a checklist of ways to be a good dad. Most of them are superficial and many very good fathers around this country are not in positions to be those kinds of dads. They are the men who work multiple jobs to provide and struggle against adversity we are blessed to not even have to think about.

Some of them, in search of a better life for their children, had those children taken from them at the border of our country. They are spending Father’s Day apart this year.

Others are serving this country in uniform, either long hours here on the home front or on foreign ground. They will also be missing time with their children this Father’s Day.

These men, all these fathers, should be proud of their efforts as providers and protectors, and hopefully their children will see the value in having fathers who model love in the best way they can.

I love my father because he has loved me so greatly. In all the ways that he has been a good man, he has demonstrated for his children what to become. He has given us a standard to rise to, an ideal to achieve.

In our own ways, each of us are striving to build the world he made us believe could exist.

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