Feeling a little hungry, I decided to make a small lunch before diving into this writing task. We had some leftover BBQ chicken lunch meat that I used for lunches during the work week and half a block of cheddar cheese leftover from assorted dinners (grocery shopping happens on Sunday nights; it's Sunday early afternoon). I slap together a quick sandwich. But before putting the ingredients away, I cut off a slice of cheese, of formidable thickness, roll it up in a piece of the lunch meat, and dip it into the mayonnaise jar. The jar is a little less than half full, so I had to really get in there. And as I retract my meat and cheese roll up from the jar and notice a little mayo on my knuckles, I have a thought (it may have been audible, I'm not sure). "Good Lord, could I be more like my father at this moment?"
The answer to that question, at one point in my life, might have scared me. I didnt want to inherit his strange taste in music, his penchant for black and white films, his questionable eating habits. I was a teenager once, with my own very strong opinion of how my life should be run. That opinion in many cases contradicted with that of my dad's. And we had fights. We had altercations. I got punished. I got mad. And the thought of me ever turning out to be anything like him, at the time, was preposterous. No way. I'm never gonna treat my kids the way he's treating me. How dare he take my Marilyn Manson CDs away? How dare he ground me for 4 weeks for lighting a tissue on fire in the house? So what if I want to have a drink or two? Nothing happened. No one got hurt. It's completely unfair. I'm nothin' like him. He doesn't understand me. Continue generic teenage angst-y rant here.
We've all been there. We've all been teenagers. But right now, in this moment, far removed from my teenage years and attitude, as I lick the mayo off my hand (it wasn't a lot. Shut up), and contemplate microwaving the sandwich (I didn't. Shut up), the answer to that question brings a smile to face. Because, not only am I ok with being like him, I now strive to be MORE like him.
I'm writing this piece, on this day, because I thought it would be a perfect tribute to my dad. He, more than anyone, has encouraged me and urged me not to squander what he thought was a talent for writing. All through school, and even after as I looked for a career, he would say "Don't give up on writing, Keep writing, Keep writing". It took a long time for his advice to sink in, and whether or not anything ever gets accomplished by my writing, I know I always have at least one fan. And as the years pass, his motivation to push me is becoming clearer. You see, I don't know much about what my dad did before he was" my dad". But, I've learned, not through him, that he had many other life paths laid out in front of him than the one he's currently on. He used to perform stand up comedy; well. He used to play in a band; well. He managed several successful auto part stores; well. From what I understand, anyway. I don't know many details about any of these aspects of his life because, quite frankly, he never talks about them. I've heard stories about them from old friends, from my aunts and uncles, but never from him. He's currently a father of 9, a school teacher, Sunday school teacher, and a tireless worker and provider for his family. The lifestyle that accompanies a comedian, a musician, a 75 hour a week retail manager doesn't sync up well with the lifestyle of a Christian father of 9. So he left those paths. Those much more alluring, much better paying, much more gratifying paths. For this one. The one that produced me, and my 8 siblings.
And we never hear word one of complaint. Not a single regret. Not a second thought. He lives his life out in a way that provides the best possible results for his family, at great cost and sacrifice to himself. And does so willingly. And lovingly. The sense of humor of a comedian never truly dies. The passion for playing never really fades for a musician. The desire of a businessman to earn a bigger paycheck never truly disappears. But, in his case, the love of a father for his children wins over all of them. No contest. Time and time again, he chooses us. And he feels, with everything that he has, he chooses correctly. Selflessly.
As he looks at me and what he thinks is a talent for writing, and he looks at his other children and the lives they could potentially lead, he wants us to make the right choices. He wants me to pursue writing because he doesnt want me to possibly miss out on opportunities it could lead to. He's sacrificed a lot for us, because he loves us, and because he loves us he doesn't want us to sacrifice a single thing. But don't worry Dad. Well be fine. We learned from the best how to make the right decisions. For love, for God, for family.