I talk a lot about my mom. In addition to being my mentor, she is my sounding board, cheerleader, and friend.
But… my father is my backstage manager.
We haven’t always had the most harmonious of relationships. I was a girl, he was a father… it was like Oreos without the milk sometimes. The intentions were admirable, but the end result was a bit dry.
On the other hand, my dad was there to save the day during some of the most pivotal moments.
At 18, I dropped out of college without telling my parents, and my father told me to join the military or look for somewhere else to live. It wasn’t out of anger. The line was being drawn between him and his child, who claimed to be an adult but did not act like one. Though I blame him for not joining the Coast Guard, he took me to the recruiter, and I was soon shipped off to become a U.S. Army soldier. I think my mom was mad at him…she might still be.
A few years later, my first marriage was in shambles, I was coming home from deployment, and my father was waiting for me at the pickup spot. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had anyone there to welcome me home. With a small sideways hug, a promise of a real cup of coffee, and the offer to carry my bags- the next chapter of my life became a tiny bit less daunting.
When I finally earned the rank of E-7, the same grade my father held in the Navy, he was there to pin me. Although it was a terrible promotion ceremony, full of people who would have rather been anywhere else, he made it special. The joke was that, at least in the Navy, I would have gotten a new coffee cup. However, in the Army, I just got a bill to redo all my uniforms.
In the days following my retirement, and after I had a minor mental breakdown due to how challenging and unforgiving civilian life is, he listened to me and understood my situation. In our conversation, he reminded me that it wouldn’t be easy for me and that no one would care about my military experience. However, he had walked the road before, and it was not as treacherous as it looked standing at the starting line.
The day my 18-year-old told me that I was the most terrible mother in the world and that I had ruined his life, my dad watched it all unfold. I was rewarded with a beer and steaks because I had finally joined the ‘Parents of Pre-Adult Club.’
These moments in my life required a steady hand, a non-emotional approach to handling difficulties, and time to process upcoming challenges. My dad was there to be that person.
My relationship with my father grew as I aged. With time, I realized that silence wasn’t disapproval or disappointment but contentment and understanding. While I did not always need advice, he was willing to offer it when I was renovating my house or buying a new car. He taught me to believe in the process and know that hard times won’t last forever. He also assured me that nothing is impossible if you have a cup of hot coffee.
My mother taught me to love life, laugh, and read. My father taught me that silence is preferred, hard work doesn’t always get the reward, and sometimes life does suck. That doesn’t mean that your goals are unachievable; it just means that sometimes you need to be a badass from the shadows.
I hope to become a Shadow Ninja, like my dad one day.