I could deny it, but honestly’? There’s no point. My mama’s my best friend; my dad’s my hero. This is the way of the world.
We grew up in the country, and Dad is a real DIY kind of guy – I really can’t remember a time when we actually HIRED someone to fix or build anything we needed around the house. So, when an especially hilly part of the property needed to be leveled out so grass would grow, there was no “Let’s hire a team of people who are trained to use earth-moving equipment. Dad came home one afternoon with a Bobcat on the back of a trailer, and that was that.
It's like the Smart Car of bulldozers.
I was about 8 years old, playing in the yard, watching my father happily push dirt around in this tiny bulldozer while Mom and my baby brother chilled in the house. I watched him coax the thick tires up the bumpy hill, chopping up sod and leaving dark brown earth in his wake.
Then, I heard the sound of the engine change from a low growl to a higher-pitched whine. I looked up from my “Barbie Climbs a Tree” adventure to see the Bobcat wobble, then lean, then completely tip over, with my beloved daddy trapped inside.
He landed with a crash, and I could hear nothing but the engine whining and the sound of screaming – the latter of which was coming from me.
I was absolutely positive my dad was dead.
I ran, screaming and crying, toward the house, apparently to inform my unsuspecting mother that she was now husbandless. She emerged, my baby brother on her hip, blinking and confused, as I explained that the Bobcat had crushed Daddy and OMG WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DOOOOOOOOOOOO??!!!
And…that’s where my memory of this incident abruptly ends. I’m assuming this is because my mother decided I was too hysterical to be of much use and sent me inside to recuperate while she helped my very-much-still-alive (albeit bruised) father out of the toppled machine.
What I’ll never forget, though, is that feeling of watching him tip over and the absolute certainty that that was the end of him.
And, unfortunately, I’ve had that feeling more than a few times since then.
Four times within the next 10 years, my father was involved in car accidents that, by all rights, should have killed or at least maimed him. Each time, he managed to walk away with little more than a few scratches and the occasional broken rib.
(I’m realizing that this kind of makes it sound like he’s a crazy drunk driver, or at the very least a careless one. While I know the former isn’t true, the jury’s still out on the latter – when the reasons progressed from “I fell asleep” to “A flock of geese flew in front of my windshield! No, really!” we all became a bit suspicious.)
The thought of losing him was so profoundly devastating that each time, I would have nightmares for weeks that he was suffering horrible deaths, being ripped out of my arms, crying out in my sleep until he came into my room and proved to me he was still alive.
In 2001, just a month after 9/11, he had open-heart surgery. Afterward, in his hospital room, I watched him sleeping, hooked up to 500,000 tubes and machines and monitors, and marveled at how frail he suddenly seemed.
I hated that thought. He’d survived crash after horrific crash, kidney stone surgery that nearly ripped him in half, and a quadruple-bypass was going to knock this man down?
I should have known better.
Today, at 64, he’s just as alive and vibrant as he ever was. Yes, he complains about his back a little bit more than he did 25 years ago. But he’ll still golf 18 holes, joke around with his family and carry my niece proudly through a room to show her off. He still offers advice and gives perhaps the best hugs EVER.
And he still tells me when my attitude needs adjusting. (That still kind of annoys me, Dad.)
The long and the short of it? Today, my dad is still as much of a hero to me as he was when I was a kid. He’s still one of the only people whose opinion actually matters to me. Hearing him say “Good job” or “I’m proud of you”? Still some of my finest moments in life, ever.
Dad, I know I told you about 100 times over the weekend, but allow me to say again in this public forum: I love you. You are the best dad a girl could ask for. And so many of the wonderful things in my life today started with you and the hero you’ve always been to me.
Happy Father’s Day.
And please be careful. :)