Today, September 23rd, is my Dad’s 66th Birthday.
(Happy Birthday, Dad.)
To mark this special occasion I decided to write a post dedicated to my Dad and, I have to tell you, it has been a struggle. In the last few weeks I have written several stories that I can’t wait to share on the internet. Stories of disappearing bus stops and clueless humiliations, of drive by crushes and of dating applications. They are all great, wonderful memories from my childhood that make me laugh even to this day. The problem? They’re all a little mean.
As I am sure you have noticed, dear reader, I really enjoy picking on my Dad and I have 27 years of memories that provide fodder to this hobby. It’s quite convenient.
But for his birthday I can’t bring myself to tell a mean story. Childhood traumas are hilarious and my Dad certainly has a thick enough skin to read the love behind my hyperbolic retellings. But on his birthday? I just can’t do it.
So instead I bring to you, dear reader, a rare event. A heartwarming story dedicated to my Dad.
Every year the elementary schools of School District 62 got together for a large track meet involving students from grades 4 and up. It was supposed to be a fun event meant to encourage healthy lifestyles and a light but competitive drive in the students. Now, despite my current obsession with board games, I have never been a competitive person (remind me to tell you the story of the time I joined a soccer team) so I was completely out of place. Still, I was selected to run 100 metres as part of a relay team and I was really proud of this. (In the interest of full disclosure I was only chosen because pretty much every kid was chosen to compete in at least one event.)
The girls on my team were all part of the “A Team” (pretty, popular, and generally unpleasant) and I desperately wanted to be one of them. I went to every practice running my heart out knowing that if only we could win they would finally accept me into their ranks. My eagerness was creepy and I was just shy of having our “Best Friend” pendants picked out.
The day of the track meet finally came and I was nervous as all hell. I was meant to be running in the third position and I was terrified that the baton would slip from my sweaty fingers when it finally came to me. My stomach hurt and my legs wobbled all through class.
And that’s where my Dad comes in.
Dad had taken the day off work so he could come and see the track meet and cheer me on. He knew all about my “A Team Ambitions” and he knew how nervous I was. Dad smiled from the sidelines and I caught his eye before the baton came to me becoming instantly calm knowing that he was there.
I didn’t drop the baton and I actually did rather well. Still, our relay team came in dead last and, despite the fact that I had been tied for first with two other girls before passing the baton on to our final runner, the loss of the race was blamed on me.
I was devastated and ashamed when I left my teammates (more than a little glad that I hadn’t braided those friendship bracelets) and found my Dad who was grinning from ear to ear. He put his arm around me and told me what a great job I had done. Then he took me for ice cream (Ice Cream: the insta-cure) and we spent the rest of the afternoon having a wonderful time.
Those moments with my Dad are the only reason I can look back on that experience with any degree of fondness. He knew exactly what to say and exactly how to act, and my self-esteem was restored.
You see, dear reader, despite my endless stories to the contrary my Dad is actually pretty amazingly good at comforting me. Without him I would not be the cool, well-adjusted person I am today. (Or, at the very least, without him I would not be able to laugh at myself.)
Which is why on his birthday I can’t bring myself to say anything but Thank You. Thank you, Dad, for being you and for teaching me to be me.