The first time I truly understood why I had married my husband, we had already celebrated more than 15 wedding anniversaries.
The moment of my realization wasn’t romantic nor was it private.
In fact, we were surrounded by others at a neighborhood Halloween party.
The dads were standing in a small circle talking, and I just happened to be nearby when one of them pulled out his phone and read a joke to the other dads. I can’t recall the punchline, but it had something to do with President Obama being black. As the other dads laughed, my husband turned his back on them and started to walk away.
“What’s wrong?” one of the other dads asked. “Do you support Obama?”
“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I support him or not. That was a racist joke and laughing at it was racist behavior.”
After their initial silence, they mumbled excuses mixed with denials.
My husband walked away anyway.
That is the exact moment when I realized why I decided he was “the one” all those years ago.
Despite our extreme personality differences, he speaks my language.
It is a language that embraces differences and dismisses labels. It’s a language that appreciates the incredible beauty of being unique and despises the use of violence.
Most of all, it is a language that conveys the perils of remaining silent at even the smallest acts of bigotry.
I was thinking of this language when I woke up Thursday morning to the news that nine people had been slaughtered at a historical African-American church in Charleston South Carolina because of the color of their skin.
I couldn’t help but wonder if their killer had told racist jokes and if people who claim they are not racist had laughed at them.
My gut told me they had.
Apathy can be as dangerous as a gun, and yet it is something many of us use on a regular basis to help us “get along” and “not make waves.
It is also something that can be broken with only a few words, like those my husband spoke at a Halloween party years ago
On Father’s Day, as most of us take time to thank our dads for all they’ve done, I want to thank my husband for teaching my children his language.
It is a beautiful language because it is also full of hope. When all the voices who speak it join together, maybe, just maybe, they can begin to change the world.
And then I remember what a friend once told me.
” The best way to deal with thinking others have more than you do is to consider the following scenario: what If we were all honest and wrote our greatest problem on a slip a paper then put the paper in a pile with everyone else’s,.” she asked. “If we were all instructed to randomly pick slips of paper out of that pile and read them, we’d quickly want our own piece of paper back.”
She was right. What she didn’t mention is the reverse: what if we all wrote down the greatest gifts in our life and willingly put them in a pile for someone else to pick up. I know I wouldn’t want to give up the good things in my life.
For example, there aren’t many people who are fortunate to grow up with a great dad and then marry a man who is a great father.
On this Father’s Day, recognizing that is making me smile
Day 344: Great Dads
Day 341: Summer Reading Programs Day 340: Margaret Thatcher’s Great Quote Day 339: Chalk Art Day 338: Tom Petty Day 337: Dogs in Cars Day 336: Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! Day 335: The Sound of a Harmonic Day 334: Significant Dates in Our Lives Day 333: Rocking Chairs Day 332: Lemonade from Fresh Lemons Day 331: Feeling at Peace Day 330: Not Letting Age Slow You Down Day 329: Raindrops on Roses Day 328: Old Newspapers Day 327: When My Pets Get Attention Day 326: Odd Little Distractions from Every Day Life Day 325: Wearing White before Memorial Day Day 324: Avoiding a Poison Ivy Rash Day 323: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Day 322: Breezes Blowing Through my Kitchen Window Day 321: Iris Gardens Day 320: Ginger’s Ridiculous Wardrobe Day 319: Wildlife in My Midst Day 318: Teamwork Day 317: The Golden Rule Day 316: When Weather Cooperates Day 315: When Humans Respect Nature Day 314: Books We Pass on to Our Children Day 313: Wildflowers Day 312: The Right to Vote Day 311: Staying True to Your Beliefs Day 310: Doris Day and “Que Sera Sera” Day 309: Lessons Learned from Motherhood Day 308: When a Difficult Problem is Solved Day 307: Living Near Hills and Mountains Day 306: Recognizing How Far Women Have Come Day 305: Creative House and Yard Decorations Day 304: The Power to Forgive Day 303: Marrying Someone Who Always Knows How to Make Me Smile Day 302: People Who Sport the Breaking Bad Car Magnet Day 301: The song of the whippoorwill Day 300: Coming Home Day 299: Clean Water Day 298: Blue Bells Day 297: Listening to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day Day 292: Dreams Day 291: “What a Wonderful World” Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home king with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs Day 287: The View From Above Day 286: The Wisdom of Mr. Rogers Day 285: The Princess Bride Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277: The Smiling Cow Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils Day 269: April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music Day 267: Country Roads Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260: Nostalgic Theme Songs Day 259: Appreciating Life’s Rewards Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers Day 257: The arrival of Spring Day 256: Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer Day 255: Thoughtful Husbands Day 254: The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean Day 252: Conversations in Cars Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect Phrase Day 243: Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi Day 241: Contagious Smiles Day 240: Oklahoma Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check Day 237: Only 28 days in February Day 236: Genuine Signatures Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234: The Words “Happy Birthday” Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents Day 232: “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224: Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated Day 212: “The Soul” Quote Day 211: Rubber Ducky Day 210: Tracks in the Snow Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days Day 206: Dogs Playing in the Snow Day 205: Descriptive Phrases Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help Day 200: Boys and Their Toys Day 199: The Most Important Person Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children Day 196: Being Told I’m Young Day 195: Good News Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be Day 191: Matt Groening Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work Day 187: Funny Phone Calls Day 186: Healthy Lungs Day 185: Reality Checks Day 184: Coincidence Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories Day 180: A soak in a bathtub Day 179: Optimism Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes Day 173: Family Acceptance Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song Day 170: Positive People Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids Day 168: Jealous Pets Day 167: Family Christmas Recipes Day 166: Church BellsDay 165: School Holiday 164: Unexpected Grace Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control Day 162: Anticipating a good story Day 161: Hope Day 160: When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment Day 159: Surprises in the Mail Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial Day 157: A Garage on Winter Days Day 156: Real Christmas Trees Day 155: Being a Parent Day 154: Selfless People Day 153: Nelson Mandela Day 152: Memorable Road Trips Day 151: Great Neighbors Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself Day 149: Love Letters Day 148: The first day of Advent Day 147: The Breakfast Club Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude Day 144: Watching My Dog Play Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
I’ve heard stories about when they first met during their Peace Corps training at Notre Dame University. As my dad’s theater voice boomed Spanish words perfectly from the back of the classroom, my mother sat diligently in the front row trying to learn the language while simultaneously fuming at my dad’s easy grasp of it.
Nothing else captures the difference between my parents more clearly.
My mom is serious, studious and a perfectionist. She went to college because that is what was expected. She has never claimed she has any natural talent. Instead she credits any accomplishment to practice and diligence. And she, like her daughter, is more comfortable doing something productive than simply relaxing. That’s not to say she doesn’t take time to enjoy the beauty of the world around her. She does. She just enjoys it more when it has a purpose.
My dad, on the other hand, has devoted his life to ensuring everyone around him understands the importance of joy. While my mom taught me how to persevere, my dad taught me how to make the most of every opportunity.
From what he says, no one ever believed he could go to college. Upon graduating from high school, he joined the Navy because he knew it would take him places that he would never otherwise go. Following that, he did manage to go to college, where he received a degree in forestry. He loved the natural world and recognized what the earth can give people if we treat it right.
And then he joined the Peace Corps and met my mother.
And then he got married and became a father.
As a little girl, I never realized how lucky I was to have a dad who encouraged my mother to be the person she wanted to be, just as he encouraged my brother and me to pursue what made us happy. In elementary school, I never thought twice about the man who spent his free time on the stage and in his gardens rather than succumbing to stereotypical male interests. And as a teenager, I never appreciated all he sacrificed and tolerated for the sake of his family.
Now that I’m adult, I appreciate all of that.
Even though I’ve often questioned how my parents ever got together, I’ve always been grateful they did. I owe my life to them. I’m not referring to the fact that I wouldn’t be alive without them. I’m referring to the fact that I am extremely fortunate that the two most influential people in my life provided me with a sense of balance.
While my mom was my greatest teacher, my dad was my greatest cheerleader. More importantly, they both served as examples of being true to yourself rather than true to societal expectations. And they stood side by side while they each did this in his/her own unique way.
Because of that, they deserve more recognition than I give them.
For example, my dad is celebrating his 49th Father’s Day this year, and I wish I could say I remembered to send his card on time or that I got him a gift that conveys my appreciation.
Unfortunately, I didn’t do either.
So instead, I’m writing these words. I’m sure that is something my dad, who always encouraged me to pursue my interests, my passions and most of all my heart, completely understands.
And if that doesn’t make him a great dad, I don’t know what does.
A message to my 15 year-old son:
The moment you were born, your dad grinned wider than I’ve ever seen. Then he said,”This is the best day of my life.”
And he meant it.
While my mind was spinning with worry, and I wasn’t even sure if I was even cut out to be a mother, your dad knew he had arrived at the place he was always meant to be – fatherhood.
Since then, he’s never left that place. Not even once. And that hasn’t always been an easy thing to do.
Not all men have the fortitude to be a father, and, and as you should well know, it is often a thankless job. It’s even harder when you grow up without much of a role model.
But your father has something a lot of men don’t – the ability to put his ego aside and focus on what he believes is most important – always being available for you and your sister.
From the moment you were born, you have been his priority. He’s never stopped believing in you or being your number one champion. Ever.
At those times when I’ve cried over your behavior or questioned what I did wrong, your dad always spoke up for you. And he was always the voice of reason.
On those days when I worried that you weren’t like other boys – that you weren’t particularly interested in playing sports or being overly social – he always praised you for being comfortable in your own skin and being true to yourself. And he was always right.
And all those times when you were being the total and complete goof you are, he was proud of you and never hid his face in embarrassment.
Well, almost never.
I know we often joke about your blood line and about your genealogy, but, in all honesty, you should be proud of being your father’s son.
You may not have his brown eyes or his poker straight hair, but you have something much more important.
You have pieces of his heart and pieces of his soul.
Treasure them and make good use of them. Your dad sacrificed a great deal so you could have them.