When I was little, my dad was the kind of father who knew everything.
He answered my questions on any topic. (As this was well before Google and I was usually too lazy to check his accuracy with our set of 1973 World Book Encyclopedias we’ll never really know if he actually did have all the answers. But no matter, to me he was omniscient.)
He was a natural athlete who showed me how to ride a bike, throw a softball and ski a fall line.
He taught me to tie a fishing hook that wouldn’t come loose, pierce a tin can with a single shot from a BB gun and drive a boat in a straight line. He helped with complicated math and physics homework.
Best of all, he always had sage advice to help me navigate tricky social and professional situations.
In short, he had my back. Even through the trying times — my teenage rebellious years come to mind, but he’s had his moments too — I knew I could count on him and trusted in his love for me.
My dad knew so much and was so wise that when it was time for me to start my own family, I actually wondered whether I was parent material because I knew I couldn’t even answer the most basic of childhood questions with authority. Thankfully, my kids have their Poppy to make up for their father’s and my shortcomings.
This Father’s Day, as I see my dad struggle to recover from open-heart surgery, I am struck by the reversal of our roles. Over the past 10 days I watched him sit up for the first time and then take tentative first steps after he came out of his anesthetic. I have been hyper vigilant about the workings of his body — his weight, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and pretty much every other function you can imagine.
I’ve even turned the tables and taught him a thing or two — like how to solve a Sudoku puzzle, download a podcast and listen to music from Spotify on his phone.
Thankfully, some things will never change, like his cutthroat competitive spirit and his insatiable interest in the world. The other day, even drugged on opioid painkillers, he managed to beat me by more than 100 points in Scrabble. And when he woke up in the ICU on the day after his surgery his first words to me were, “Tell me about the Comey testimony.”
Physically he is weak and more than a little vulnerable. All I want to do is help him, protect him and see him feel better. I want the nurses understand that the 76-year-old man they see in that hospital gown hooked up to monitors is not a true representation of my father. My father is strong and capable. He knows just about everything. Best of all, he’s got a giant heart.
It’s a fact: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. By answering my homework, teaching me life skills and listening to my problems my dad gave me so much more than the facts he spouted. His gift to me was the foundation for a life of connection — a legacy I’m living now by doing my best to reciprocate in the hopes that it will help him live a happy and healthy life for many more years to come.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.