I’m 41, very likely at least middle-aged, and I have the gray hairs mixed in with the more youthful colors on my head, as well as the footprints of time across my face, to show for it.
But no matter how old I get, I’m still my dad’s daughter. No matter how old either one of us gets, I’m his first-born, his little girl. I still call my Pops when I am facing a conundrum because there is no other person’s wisdom that I trust more.
My dad is a fun-loving fella, a genial guy that is great at making people feel welcome and comfortable. He’s almost always laughing, no matter the situation, and anyone that knows him is already smiling as he heads their way.
My dad, stepmom, and I several weeks ago attended the visitation of a teenager that passed all too soon, the son of my second cousin.
So many people turned out to pay their respects to the family, and as we three entered that serpentine line winding through the funeral home, my dad soon took off, making his way around to everyone with a familiar face. In fact, he skipped out on most of that line, until it was our turn to face a grieving mother and father.
My dad, who for the last hour had been greeting those he hadn’t seen in too long, my dad who had been cutting up with some of these folks, shaking hands, giving hugs, remembering old times, broke down completely when he got to his cousin’s child, who stood in front of a casket bearing his son.
The man who’d had plenty of words for the last hour was speechless and overcome by emotion.
That sensitivity, it’s one of my favorite things about my dad.
And while he might not appreciate me announcing that to all who read this, well, I’m doing it anyway.
It has never been possible for me to hold back tears when I see my own father so overcome. Even though I know he has a heart that feels so much, he’s my big, strong daddy, and seeing that veneer shed is always a bit of a shock at first.
But I wouldn’t change it at all.
When it was time for my beloved Scouty to cross the Rainbow Bridge, it was my dad who came to pick up my daughter at the vet’s office because she was too young and I was too emotional for what was about to take place.
When he arrived, we were outside waiting for him, and as my dad made his way to us he was already in tears. He told Scout goodbye and took my daughter’s hand and departed. I don’t even remember there being any words.
It was the same when I sold my horse. I was a senior in high school and didn’t have time for him anymore. I was heartbroken, and so was my dad, probably more because I was. The Beau always gave Dad a hard time, something that makes me giggle now.
There have been countless times that my dad’s tears have taken me unaware and jerked hot tears from my own eyes.
I don’t know that the emotionality is anything he’s comfortable with. I think it’s more that he just becomes so overcome, so overwhelmed by emotion, that it floods out.
Like I said, it’s one of my favorite things about my dad, whether he likes it or not.
That ability to feel so deeply, so completely, that’s been passed on, and life is a richer experience for it, even with the tears.
So all you dads out there, your kids don’t always need to see you being tough and strong and unbreakable. Sometimes the best gift you can give is allowing someone else to see you sensitive and vulnerable. Those are not dirty words, but admirable qualities, I think.
In a previous column I wrote, “If you’re feeling it, then feel it, don’t try to hide it all away somewhere. And if facing it and feeling it brings on a few tears, let them go. It’s good for you.”
I meant every word.
It may have not been with spoken words or with deliberate instruction, and it may just be an integral part of my own make-up, but my dad showed me it was quite alright to let your feelings manifest, to be sensitive, that a tough demeanor isn’t all its cracked up to be, and that being sensitive and caring are well worth becoming a little vulnerable sometimes.
So thanks, Dad. Whether you meant to or not, I think this girl has learned a thing or two about how to feel, how to be empathetic, how to show compassion, and I think it’s largely due to your example.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.