Father’s Day always reminds me of how terrible I am about picking out gifts for my dad. All the typical dad gifts don’t work. Ties? Never seen him wear one. Tools? The man sold them for five years and has worked with them for 30. Golf clubs? Nope. He is an avid fisherman, but you can only buy a man so many bags of plastic worms and rattle traps before it starts feeling inauthentic.
So this year I decided to use my only real skill by writing about him.
My relationship with my dad has always been based on respect. He never laid a hand on me, but I was still scared to death of him every time I screwed up. When I accidentally broke my parent’s bedroom window with a baseball while trying to emulate Bobby Witt (hey, I was a Ranger fan in the mid-90s), I immediately ran bawling to my grandmother and begged her not to tell my dad. Of course, when he found out, he said it wasn’t that big of a deal. Boys will be boys. Things happen. It was such a big deal to him that the temporary cardboard he put over the hole in the window stayed on for 10 years.
I had a huge fear of letting him down. When I quit football at the end of my sophomore year of high school (mainly to focus on becoming a rock ‘n’ roller), I didn’t tell him for a week because I was convinced he would flip out and ground me. This was ridiculous, because that’s the exact opposite of how my dad has always worked. When I finally told him, I could tell he was a little bummed, but he just told me to keep my grades up.
I now realize that those moments helped shape my outlook and personality today. I like to think I’m pretty even-keel. It takes a lot more than a broken window to get me riled up.
My dad leads by example. He still shows me what true hard work is by heading to his shop every day in the summer heat to crawl under 18-wheelers. Even at 52, he’s still doing back-breaking work to provide for his family. During his stint selling tools, he spent his weekend working on trucks on the side so he could pay my college apartment rent. He’s not the most emotional guy, but he doesn’t need to be with me. His actions say it all. That and when he ends almost every conversation we have with “Check your oil.” It’s his way of saying, “I love you, son.”
He’s a true man’s man, more than I’ll ever be. He restored his father’s 1932 Ford Model A, turning it from potential scrap metal into a beautiful, running tribute to his dad. He also turned my first car–an $800 1987 Silverado–into a legitimately bad-ass truck, while letting me feel like I had a large hand in the overhaul. When that truck broke down during my junior year of college, he drove down to Austin, towed it home and fixed the transmission. He sold it to his friend and surprised me with a new truck.
He also set a really high precedent for being a cool dad. I always had the coolest dad among my friends. He would throw the football around with us. He would take us fishing and tubing. As we got older, he would not kick us out of his garage when The Riffters invaded and even claimed to enjoy our music (not sure if I really believe him). To this day, Joel will still give dad a call when he’s having car trouble. My dad’s answer every time, “Bring it over and let’s take a look at it.”
So today I just want to say, thanks dad for all of the above. You really are the best dad and I can only hope to set as good of an example for my kids.
And don’t worry. I’ll check my oil.