Ode to my Father

As Father’s Day approaches, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my father. As we all take time to celebrate dads, we recognize the unique part they played or continue to play in our lives.

My father was far from perfect. But luckily for me, mine came pretty close as far as I was concerned. I know that not all my siblings had the same relationship with my father. And my father has to take the larger part of that responsibility. I do know why I was his favorite. As my mother tells the story, I was born blue and not breathing. Being the next child after my mother had a failed pregnancy, I think my father first realized the full extent of the miracle of birth. So, with that, I became my father’s favorite.

Although I was vertically challenged (as I like to call my lack of height), my father really wanted to pass his love of sports down to his children and I was the first one to respond accordingly. While I was never a great athlete, I played in every sport that we had in my school for females, which wasn’t very many. And I watched sports incessantly by my father’s side. I knew what turkeys, birdies, bull’s eyes, single wings,shagging flies and grannies had to do with different sports.

I don’t know if it was genetics or osmosis, but in spending so much time with my father, I seemed to have many similar personality traits. Sports can teach more than just athleticism. Fair play, hard work and treating people equally with respect can all be great lessons. Different people from different backgrounds coming together for a common cause is a wonderful thing to witness and/or be a part of. I suppose that’s why sports are so popular throughout all of history. While I might argue the money in sports is disproportionally unjust vs. societal needs, nevertheless, the appeal is unquestionable. Perhaps it speaks to an inner thirst for belonging in this day of technology-leading isolation where people text each other instead of speaking while seated in the same room.

As a shy and quiet child, I could push myself in sports. Mistakes happen and that’s part of the improvement process. There is something empowering in sports. As your fitness and athleticism grow, so does your confidence. And it spills over into other parts of your life as well. Especially when you find you are too small to excell at most sports, you find other venues that fit you better, not based on physical size. Learning, reading, writing, and charitable work…none of those have high physical demands.

I was brought up in a traditional household. I knew I would end up living the same kind of lifestyle, and I did. But when that all fell apart, I started looking for an alternative. While I first felt I might never recover from what I saw as the biggest failure of my life, I had to pull myself out of that mindset to become productive again. I reverted back to sports. I took up tennis and focused on my running again. And, guess what? The physical strength brought back that more positive outlook on life. I remembered the earlier lessons of trying new things and learning from the failures, and accepting that if I couldn’t change it, to look at that as part of the process of growth.

That’s what led to me deciding to live abroad. I started my international travels in Europe. And I connected right away with Spain. There was something about it that spoke to me. Or many things, I guess. I kept traveleing to Europe and while I wanted to visit everywhere, I kept going back to Spain. So that was it. I knew I would always wonder what it would have been like if I’d moved abroad. When my children seemed to be safely on their own path as adults, I took the plunge.

Now I love my new life. Are there challenges? Every day. Has everything turned out the way I planned? Hardly. But every day is a new day full of wonder and possibility. I truely am able to shape my own destiny. It’s scary and exciting and I hope it can continue. But even if something forces me back to a full-time life in the States, I will always have these adventurous memories. Which is more than I can say for many people who just can’t seem to pull the trigger on their dreams.

So, thanks, Dad. I know you helped instill in me the belief that I am strong enough to do things I didn’t think I could or should. And it’s changed my life forever. In amazing ways.

Your Takeaway – Follow your dreams! Know that you have it in you to take the giant steps that may be necessary to do what your heart tells you is right for you. You may stumble, but don’t give up. Ask for help, rework your plan, but don’t quit on it. If it means enough to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Don’t let others tell you what is right for you. Have the strength to stand up for what makes sense and not necessarily what’s expected. Oh yeah, and tell your dad how much he means to you while you can. You may miss him terribly when he’s gone. Like me.

 

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