Family love: Dad

I am writing a series of short posts about why I love my family. This is the third installment. All quality (wedding-related) photographs are courtesy of the incomparably great Meredith Perdue; all other photographs are mine.

Dad, Juju, Jak

We like to say that my father never truly grew up. Throughout our childhoods, he was the most popular dad in the neighborhood. He was the Pied Piper. Flocks of children followed him everywhere: to the pool, to play dodgeball against the walls of houses, to set up a makeshift hockey rink in the cul-de-sac, to stage water wars against other bands of roving children. He did not act like everyone else’s serious, starchy fathers; he seemed like one of us. At family gatherings, he preferred to sit at the kids’ table; adult conversation made him uncomfortable. He never treated us like babies or talked down to us; he treated us like his equals and we worshiped him for it.

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He is one of the most hilarious and unusual people I know. Sarcasm is his mother tongue. I often regale people with stories of the bizarre and funny things he’s done, only to realize later that he may come across as totally insane.

All I ever wanted when I was a child was to make him laugh. To get Dad to laugh! That would be the highest honor. When he did laugh at something I said, I felt on top of the world.

Dad's true love

He is the most humble man I know. Dad is a quintessential renaissance man in many ways. He was a celebrated athlete in college, winning all sorts of titles (including the Big Ten Award) for Purdue’s track team. Today, he coaches hockey and plays any sport that he can. Our family gatherings are now famous for his organized “Family Olympics” events. He gathers all willing members into a gauntlet of games (including but not limited to: basketball, badminton, volleyball, disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, hockey, Crate, and so on).

Along with still managing to fit the role of the consummate athlete, Dad is the smartest person I’ve ever met. He has three master’s degrees (in computer engineering, robotics, and something else equally nerdy). He worked on the team in Florida that invented the first personal printer. He did freelance engineering work for NASA. He spent a year creating an algorithm for auctions that no one had discovered before. But he’d never tell you any of these things, not in a million years. He’s accomplished things that we are still finding out about, even now.

In my teenage years, I was very easily frustrated with him. I had little patience in our relationship. I regret that a lot. Looking back, I think this is because how similar we are. I can’t completely express all of our small, shared characteristics, but I am convinced that they are many. We both have a tendency to default to sarcasm in tight situations. We are likely to become obsessed with something, to a degree more extreme than most people. We cultivate a fierce pride in our family. We like to exaggerate problems but then solve them quickly. Since I’ve gotten married, I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been before. I appreciate him to a deeper degree; I realize all that he has done for us and continues to do. He brings unlimited joy wherever he goes and I don’t think there’s anyone I’d rather spend a day with. As a father, he is peerless. He gave us the happiest childhood one could imagine. And I don’t tell him that enough.

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