I lost my dad when I was in 7th grade. I was just old enough to understand the permanence of his loss, but too young to understand the magnitude of it for my future self. When he left, we both ran out of time of the things I had yet to learn from him. We both thought we would have more time. I’ve now had over twenty years without him to understand how many things I wish he could have been here for. There is always so much emphasis put on the big life events, but if you have lost someone, you know that the truth is you miss them for the little things throughout each day, every day.
My dad loved to golf, but by the time I wanted to learn, he was already gone. My mom put me in lessons, but my 13-year-self wasn’t catching on. A dear family friend invited me to come over after school and hit golf balls in his pasture. He helped me anytime I wanted to practice. I was terrible, but because of him, I made the varsity team. Everything I know about a sport my dad loved to do, I learned from Howard.
One day when visiting my aunt and uncle on the other side of the state, my Uncle Wayne tossed me they keys to his truck and told me to get in the driver’s seat. I had no idea how to drive, but my uncle laughed and said it was a good time to learn, so we hit the country back roads. I know he had other things to do that day, but instead, he taught me how to drive that day.
When I was a junior in high school, I qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals. One of my dad’s best friends and his wife, who I consider my second parents, drove my mom and I across the country to be there for us. He left his ranch for an entire week, which is something ranchers just do not do. And it wasn’t just that he was there for that week, he came to all of my practices and rodeos in the years leading up to nationals. Fifteen years later, that same couple would drop everything on a cold December day (a windchill of -23, literally), to help me move into my house. When my babies arrived in this world, “Papa Larry” was one of the first to visit each one of them in the hospital. My children never got to meet their Grandpa Steve, but they still have this person who loves them like a grandpa would.
My dad had an insurance agency that he poured himself into during the final ten years of his life. He loved that career and the people he met through it. A good friend and colleague, Dave, offered my husband a job last year. Dave told my husband that my dad had mentored him and he wanted to do the same. My dad has been gone for two decades, yet it feels like parts of him are still being passed down.
One of my dad’s best friends made it a point that my little girls were in the summer junior golf program. Bob has always called me for my birthday and he sometimes calls just to check in. He and his wife even joined my mom and I on my college graduation trip to Nashville.
A few months ago my car started rattling as soon as I pulled out of the driveway. I pulled into a neighbors driveway trying not to cry, since my husband was already at the basketball game we were running late for. My neighbor, Donnie, walked outside, knocked on my window and said, “Pop the hood! Let’s take a look.” I live only a few hundred yards away from where I grew up and this neighbor has been there for us my entire life.
The thing about each and every one of these individuals is that they didn’t have time to spare, but they made it a priority to look after me, too. They have children and grandchildren, but they have all made sure that if my mom or I need anything at all, they are just a phone call away.
When I became a single mom, my friend (who later became my husband), made my tire appointment for me and researched what tires I needed to get. I knew nothing about tires – and I still don’t- but he figures it out for me. In high school he was the friend who came over to install my satellite radio in my car or take care of a snake when I came across one, even though he lived 30 minutes away. Now as my daughers’ stepdad, he has never missed a dance recital and carried all of the things, including carrying dolls even when he says he won’t carry them.
He fixes the car things for me that I don’t know how to deal with – and I don’t want to deal with. (He might get crabby about it because I tend to wait too long to get something fixed, but he still does it for me.) He has taught my little girls countless things, like how to shoot their bows and everything we know about baseball. He lets us adopt pets even though every time he swears this time is the last time.
There are so many people in my life who have done “the dad things” for me over the years. They have been here for me, for my mom and for my children. They have been my uncles and friends. They have been those who traveled to be there for us on our big days or to fix something that is broken.
As the years go by, I become much more aware of the luxury of time. I realize that no one has much of it to give, so when they spend it on you, it’s a big deal. So to all of who you go out of your way to do the dad things when you aren’t the dad, I thought you should know it’s appreciated. Whether you showed up for a school preschool Christmas program or sat through a ballet recital on a beautiful day, it’s going to be remembered. Forever. When you say you’ll be there, and you mean it, just knowing you are there is a gift that won’t be taken for granted.
These people weren’t my dad, and they weren’t trying to be, but they left their mark in my life, too. Their small acts of being there for me meant so much more than they will ever know. Happy Father’s Day to all dads and Happy Father’s Day to those who do all of the things a dad would do.