Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there–biological, adoptive, mentor, and otherwise. 🙂 It’s been a nice, relaxing day for us so far. My mom and sister made a tremendous breakfast of omelettes, potatoes, and pancakes from scratch. My sister and I bought our dad baseball tickets and mini-golf/batting cage passes, but my dad elected for us to use those on a not-as-crowded weekend. 😉
I am so lucky to have such a great relationship with my dad, and we’ve only grown closer over the years. He has always been a wonderful mentor, role model, and protector, but now that Jennifer and I are older, he is also one of our best friends. He is one of my favorite people to have deep conversations with about philosophy, religion, government, and classical music, and I so appreciate that he and our mom have always taken our opinions seriously, no matter what age we were–I think that really helps children develop into confident individuals. 🙂 As I mentioned in this post (which is actually my most-viewed day of all time!), I also love how he will take Jennifer and me out on daddy-daughter dates, one-on-one. My lovely fellow-blogger friend Misty made this comment on that blog post, which I totally agree with and didn’t even think of till she mentioned it: “It is SO important for fathers to take their girls out to show them how their future husband should treat them!” Well-said, Misty! Since we were little girls, Jennifer and I have always imagined our future husbands to have many of the qualities our dad has: dependable, supportive, honorable, loving, hard-working, thoughtful, and more. Potential suitors can tell immediately that they have a lot to live up to, and like Misty said, I think that’s a good thing. After all, for most little girls, their fathers were the first men they ever loved.
It’s one thing for a dad to be there during happy times, but it’s another for him also to be there during the hard times. A lot of men can be intimidated or overwhelmed when “the going gets tough,” but not my dad. He has always been our hero, and he argues that we put him on too high of a pedestal, but the truth is that there isn’t a pedestal in existence that’s high enough for him. And that’s OK, because my sister sewed him a superhero cape a number of years ago, so he doesn’t need to stand when he could fly in the stratosphere, anyway. 😉
I think the hardest thing a parent could go through is losing a child–and the next-hardest thing would be almost losing one. That’s why I always say that my traumatic brain injury experience was harder for my family than for me. When you boil it down, for me, my experience was mostly positive: I survived, I was getting better every day, I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me no matter what. It’s hard for me to imagine what my parents felt, and that’s one of the hardest aspects of writing my memoir–but I know it couldn’t have been easy, squelching negative “what-ifs” and replacing them with unconditional smiles and positivity. I don’t remember a lot of things about my TBI recovery, but one thing that resounds through all my memories is my father saying “she can do it”–no matter how bleak a medical prediction was pronounced. And that’s what I always held onto, because I’ve always trusted my father so much–so I knew that if he thought I could do it, I must be able to. 🙂
When I was in the secondary education (teaching) program at UIUC, one of our assignments was to write a thank-you note to someone who has inspired us. I knew immediately who that would be, and for what. Here is the letter I wrote on 8/31/07, less than two years after my TBI.
The simplest words we’ve heard so many times are sometimes the most effective; the repetition makes them especially powerful, so that when they are said at more poignant times, we remember them especially well.
“She can do it”—not even spoken to me, but about me. Hearing you tell someone else that I could do it meant knowing that the sentiment wasn’t a term reserved simply to comfort me with perhaps exaggerated situational confidence.
Never was this more critical than when you said it, while I was in the hospital, in response to several doctors’ doubts about my ability to walk, write, etc.—let alone return to college—again. At a time where I was less certain than ever of my abilities and potential, the person whose judgment I had always considered the soundest (well, along with Mom’s and Jennifer’s), just voiced firmly that I would be able to do potentially everything I wished—just as you had always told us.
Maybe I wasn’t so different then than the little girl who looks to her hero (her father, of course) for identification, encouragement and guidance for her potential. I know for certain that I would not be the person I am today without that invaluable, unconditional support and faith you bestowed upon me; I know I would not have returned to that person without that very similar faith.
Dad, thank you not only for telling me that “I can do it,” but telling others “she [I] can do it,” too. This very simple act of publicizing your faith reinforces that belief in me.
Just as this now-big girl will always be your little girl, so will you always be her hero; and she hopes to continue to hear that simple phrase from you that means so much to her.
I mailed that letter to my dad, and he’s kept it ever since–and he has indeed continued to tell me “she can do it” through every endeavor I try.
Thank you, Dad, for all your support and guidance of shaping me into who I am today. I love you forever. ❤