I have a pretty cool dad. Please don’t tell him I said that — it would totally ruin our relationship :) In all seriousness though, a little girl’s daddy is her first love, and there was no man more worthy of that role than my own dad. One of my first memories is getting all dressed up to go on a date with my daddy. I must have been 3 years old, and he was driving a tow truck at the time. I remember my mom brushing my hair and telling me that daddy would be home soon to take me on a date! I remember seeing her reflection in the mirror as she put a necklace around my neck and watching the excitement on her face as she told me about how special I was to go on a date with daddy. I wore a fancy Sunday dress and my pretty little white shoes. I picked out a purse — even then I always had a purse with me :)
I remember not really knowing what this date was or why it was happening, but I remember knowing it must be fun because mommy was excited and daddy was taking me out, just me and him! I don’t really remember him coming home, or me riding in the tow truck (which my mom told me happened) but I do remember eating french fries and a chocolate milkshake at McDonalds with my dad. I felt very grown up; sitting on the high top chair in my finest clothes, next to my daddy. There were probably lots of other daddies in McDonald’s that day, but he was mine and I had eyes for no one else but him. Such small little blurbs of memory, but they remain some of my favorites.
As I got older, we bumped heads of course :) We are very much alike (which, naturally, I never believed growing up). My dad was the probation officer for a very small town and he intimidated my friends — not to mention any hopeful suitors! What I saw then as over protective and stifling behavior, is clearer now as the fierce love for his only daughter. He knew things that I didn’t. He saw things that he protected me from. In the process, I fought against it with all of my sassy, stubborn, teenage girl angst. And I know that in the process, a lot of the decisions I made hurt him. We, being the rug sweepers that we are, have never really talked about it and that’s fine. He knows, and I know. We’re good.
Then came Daniela, and I realized all of the reasons that a parent stalks, protects, grounds, and infuriates their children. The love for a child is intense — making normal people into crazy disciplinarians and worried nail biters. I have to believe that parents are all doing their best, trying to keep their heads above water while hoping and praying that the child they’re so afraid will drown, can suddenly swim without help. Knowing when to stand firm and when to step back and trust their child is probably the hardest lesson to learn. While my dad wasn’t perfect, he loved me with a fierce, protective love and every action stemmed from that love. How could I ever ask for more? He’s my dad, my first love. He showed me how a lady should be treated so that I would know who to keep around and who to let go. He showed me how to shoot a gun, in case the boys I let go didn’t get the picture (wink, wink). He showed me the importance of being consistent. He showed me the importance of seeking God. He showed me the value of family and that sometimes you have to fight for it. Though he might disagree, he showed me that Marco was a man worth hanging on to :)
The first time I saw Marco on the floor of the apartment he shared with a friend, playing Tea Party Tea Party with 2 year old Daniela, I knew he was a keeper. That’s the kind of dad that makes an excellent husband. He played with Daniela — totally present and in the moment — and enjoyed it! He didn’t roll his eyes at me when Daniela asked for another lump of sugar for Elmo. He didn’t feign interest in her make believe world — he brought life to her imagination! He made up games that they still play today: Queen of the Sky, Rolly Polly, Pillow Under! Memories that Daniela will remember for a life time. God, I love that man.
I couldn’t ask for a better father for Daniela to look up to. And while he is, by far, the “fun” parent, I cherish the time I came home and found them outside just sitting and talking about his own dad and the lessons Papa Ruben taught him. The bedtime stories when he shares his little life secrets with Daniela and teaches her how she should be treated. And one day, she will look back on her childhood — on all of things that Papi taught her — and just like I did, she will say yes. Yes, my dad would approve of this boy because he treats me how my daddy did. Happy Father’s Day to the two most important men in my life.
I love you Dad.