Why My Dad Is My Hero
AKA The privilege of coming from a broken home
The first thing that should be stated about Dad is that he is the mayor of nothing. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico and it seems like half of the people who share the city with me know Dad. He and I have had to work on multiple projects that require trips to the store for equipment, groceries, etc. Almost every time we step into a retail outlet, his face will split into a smile and his voice will boom out in greeting of yet another person I’ve never met before, but yet another person he has known longer than I have been alive. They’ll stand and talk like old friends for a few minutes and the person in question will inevitably smile and say how nice it is to see Dad like he’s some kind of puppy rather than the imposing figure he is at six foot four and three hundred pounds. Both parties will agree to talk soon and we will all part ways to go about our respective business. After a minute or two and usually without prompting Dad will lean over and tell me who he or she was, how he knows them and for how long. Dad may not have a lot of friends, but he has more acquaintances than I care to count; with all of whom he is somehow on good terms.
The next thing I love about Dad is that he’s a public servant, or was before he retired. Dad was a police dispatcher for twelve years before moving into a field position as a crime scene investigator. He was never a sworn peace officer, but he knows so many current and retired cops that I think he could start his own department if he wanted to, and if it were legal; Dad would never break the law in that regard. The country is not altogether pro-law enforcement right now and I can see why. At one point in time, I was trying to go into that field, until I took a look at some aspects of it and realized I wouldn’t be able to do the job in good conscience. Dad supported me the whole time, when I wanted to be a cop and when I decided I didn’t want to be one after all. This is a good analogy for how he reacts to public service, including his. He believes in what is right and will help people do what is right because it is right. So while he worked with cops, he does not support law enforcement for the sake of doing so; he hates bad cops and is not quiet about it, but he will be just as vocal about the good people in all career fields and walks of life. His service speaks to his support of what he loves: his family, his community, and his morals. Dad isn’t this way because he was a public servant, he was a public servant because he is the way he is.
The next detail that makes me happy to call this man Dad is his sense of humor and showmanship. I’ve tried to highlight his principles and characteristics as much as possible to get to this point because I know it has left an impression on me. Dad is funny, but more than being funny he loves a good joke and will laugh at one even if nobody else gets it. That makes sense, seeing as humor is an individual thing, but I’ve seen Dad try to explain a joke to someone who doesn’t get it because he wants to share the laugh with them, and I think that’s even funnier. He wants his sense of humor to extend beyond himself and he wants to get the whole crowd in on the joke, sort of like a mayor would if he were out kissing babies and shaking hands (please refer back to paragraph one) on the campaign trail. But more than having a sense of humor, Dad is a storyteller. He has a hundred stories, and I love hearing every one of them in my thirties just as much as I did in my teens. Some of them are about things he did in high school, about his parents or about things he saw on the job. Not all of them are happy or sad, but all of them are told like a surgeon performing surgery or a conductor conducting an orchestra. I’ve heard some stories enough times to remember details myself: because those details never change. Dad tells a story like a religious leader in service, he manages to share it and leave a mark without meaning to do anything but tell a story. As a man with kids of his own now, I try to tell my stories the way Dad tells his. I have yet to meet the mark. It’s a shadow that I will be in for a long time, but it’s a shadow that I’m happy to be in so long as he is sharing and laughing with me while I am in it.
The last thing I will share with you that I love about Dad, although it is not the last thing there is to love, is that he is adopted. He isn’t bitter about it, the parents that he tells stories about, the ones who taught him to share a laugh and tell a story, the ones who taught him what was right is and to pursue it, the ones who taught him to greet old friends like old friends, are the parents who took him in. They even adopted him a little sister, my aunt. Now I know the fact that Dad is adopted is a slightly macabre selection but you have to understand: this man is not my father. He didn’t legally adopt me. He didn’t marry my mom. I know him because I went to school with his son, one of my oldest friends. I met Dad at the tender age of 14 in the year 2002. By 2006, when I graduated, I was calling him Dad. When my mom, my actual mom, died in 2007 I turned to Dad. When I joined the military and got married for the first time, even though he knew we were too young and it was too soon, Dad was by my side. He put a roof over my head before I shipped out. He wrote to me during basic, he was the photographer at my wedding. My youngest son carries his name. When my first marriage ended, he put a roof over my head again, this time with my sons-and he never once told me that I should have listened to him. When I got my bachelor's degree, it was Dad who yelled the loudest and told the best story about me, saying how far I had come from the shaggy kid he’d known. When I decided to propose to my now wife, Dad was the first one I called and he was overjoyed for me. When we got married, Dad wore the funniest costume to the wedding. I love Dad for who he is, sure, but also because he has represented a north star to me since we met twenty years ago. I still get a little chill when he calls me son.
This man represents to me a bedrock of safety and truth. He has not always been happy with me, and he has been just as vocal about that and my failings as he has about his pride and my successes. He showed me that, even though I come from poverty and addiction, we all get to choose where we end up. Anybody can be a father, I’m told. I’ve never met mine but I thank my lucky stars every day that I got to have a Dad.