“Just wanted to call and check in. Talked to Mom a bit, so thought I would see how you’re doing.”
My dad’s voice on the other end of the line was soft and gentle.
His words seemed vague, but I knew exactly what they meant. We had an unwritten code we'd been speaking in for 20-some odd years that allowed us to say everything and nothing all at once.
“I’m good! Just finishing up some packing and speaking with my boss about a new proposal today,” I answered.
Just like that, we had acknowledged I was moving out of my boyfriend’s house after a heartbreaking ending, and my dad would give anything to take away the pain I was hiding from.
We never spoke sentences that said those things outright, but we understood each other indefinitely.
My mom would receive the calls with my self-deprecation and flurry of sobs, and she would soften the story just a bit when relaying it to my dad.
He would call or email about business and sports and slip in a hint he was reassuring me I had his full support.
Our code works both ways, too. My mom tells me about a woeful departure from his job, and I send my dad an article about the Kansas State Wildcats and mention he has taught me his trade in business better than anyone.
We are a paradoxical match when it comes to communication, but we never have to guess what the other person is thinking or feeling.
He’s my rock, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My father is a top-notch role model, successful salesman, committed husband and quick-witted nerd.
Even though we know how strong our (mostly) unspoken bond is, it’s about time I truly thank my dad for the life he’s provided me.
Specifically, I'd like the thank him for these seven gifts:
The gift of perpetual movie quoting
Thanks to our incessant watching of "Tommy Boy" over the past two decades, I can sprinkle Chris Farley and David Spade quotes with perfected comedic timing at any given opening.
As a test for dating chemistry, I will often throw a line out to see if a man can go toe-to-toe with the script. Failure usually leads to disinterest on my part.
The gift of compromise
I’ve never actually seen my dad cook a full meal for our family, even though I know he’s capable of cooking.
He’s barbecued now and then, whipped up his famous grilled cheese and delivered pancakes on Sundays when I was little, but when it comes to a sit-down meal, my mom is always the one to serve us.
Even as empty-nesters, she still cooks meals for the two of them. After every sit down, however, my dad picks up everyone’s plate, takes it to the counter and diligently starts the dishes.
He does the pots, the pans, the prep bowls, wine glasses, the stove, everything. Once he finishes, he saunters away, flips ESPN on and calls it a night.
“Thank you, honey,” my mom will say. “Of course. Thanks for a great meal!” he responds.
They have been married for 34 years. This isn’t an act; it’s just a great display of compromise and partnership.
The gift of apologizing
My dad spanked me once. I can’t remember what I had done because I was no older than 3 or 4, but it must have been pretty bad.
I cried for hours. Finally, he came into my room, where I was pouting in the corner, and asked me if I knew what I had done wrong. Again, I can’t remember, but chances are I was likely hesitant to admit any fault.
However, we got to the end of the conversation, I wiped my tears, looked up at him and told him he isn’t supposed to hurt me and shouldn’t be allowed to do it ever again.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I should not have hit you, and I’ll never do it again.” And he didn’t.
He taught me to accept fault and change actions by making a deal with a toddler as if it was a vow under oath.
The gift of college football knowledge
You didn’t know there were three Gronkowskis? You still thought Nebraska was in the Big 12, or you overlooked that only five SEC teams finished above .500 for away games?
I can spurt off draft picks, conference sleepers and historical matchups, all thanks to my dad.
We have home videos from the time I was 4 years old, speech impediment and all, talking about college football. My dad is a bank of knowledge and statistics, and I live to follow in his footsteps.
The gift of humility
I drained a half-court buzzer beater shot when I was 16 years old on my high school basketball team.
It was something I had practiced for 10 years in the backyard with my dad, countdown and all.
He was on a business trip for that game, and he missed my moment to shine.
I resented him for it until I actually went on one of his work ventures and saw the time and effort he put into his job, which happened to be based 5,000 miles from our home.
He traveled back and forth, week after week, but he never said a word about it or came home with slumped shoulders.
The moment I had made about myself – making the heroic shot – was made possible because my dad worked his ass off to give my family a happy home and life.
He sacrificed comfort, convenience and accessibility with a modest, loving approach.
The gift of ambition
Whether it was college choices, athletic dreams or business proposals, my dad has always been completely supportive. He believes I can do anything, but not without hard work.
Every time I have asked for a raise, stood up for what I believe in or competed in any type of contest, my dad has come through with research, tips, tactics and wisdom.
He expects results, but he never puts me under pressure. He feels for my failures, but never dwells on them. He tells me to aim high because I’m capable. His own ambition, paired with his nudge toward mine, has pushed me toward experiences I would have otherwise completely missed.
The gift of firm but unconditional love
I drank too much too early in life. I committed flagrant fouls on the basketball court out of frustration. I lied and forged my parents’ signatures back when notes were the only contact teachers had with families.
I crashed my car, quit my job without a plan and fell in love with men who treated me terribly.
I put myself in dangerous situations, overspent money and feigned happiness out of guilt.
I have put my dad (and mom, to be fair) through the ringer, and there have been some horrific and gut-wrenching conversations along the way.
Not once, however, has my father ever come down on me without ensuring I am loved.
It’s his love that has pushed me to be a kinder person without compromising my values. For that, my dad deserves the world.
The number of gifts my dad has given me throughout my lifetime far exceed the seven mentioned here.
As I have watched my friends get older, their parents get older and life get a little bit more real, I recognize, perhaps, the code my dad and I share can loosen up and allow for some true sentiment.
For now, I wish my dad and all gift-bestowing dads the happiest Father’s Day.
Dad, you’ve created the person I want to be and the people I want to be around.