Back in boot camp in the US Navy, I was in a basement of the barracks being physically reprimanded. Basically, I was put through some intense PT for roughly three hours.
None of that bothered me until the company commander got down on his knees and leaned his face two inches from mine while I was in the push-up position.
“Do you have Daddy issues Airman? Is that why you joined the Navy?”
Those questions were yelled two inches from my face as his spit sprayed. I was thoroughly disgusted with him.
My eyes met his and I firmly yelled back, “NO SIR!”
I was disgusted with his tactics and I was disgusted with his spit.
My dad has never been perfect, but he has always been real.
Around the time I was 13 years old I had a lot of questions. We sat in the car in our driveway. I needed to know about his marriage to my mother. I had questions and I needed answers. I needed to know what happened, how he felt, and what he learned. I needed to know that none of it was for nothing.
As a child that endured a bitter divorce between two parents, this mattered to me.
He met me where I was. There were no fences. There were no walls.
My dad does not make himself emotionally vulnerable as a habit. I knew what I was asking was a lot for him. I remember being 13, asking what seemed like the impossible, and he came through. It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. In that moment, I saw my dad as real. I also realized that he loved me enough to meet me where I was.
A boyfriend I had after high school broke my heart like few have. My dad showed up in my bedroom while I had a face full of tears and a shattered heart. This particular boyfriend held walls high above his heart, as if he were afraid to truly love. Not only did my dad refrain from calling him a Gazoola bird, but he promised me that one day I would meet someone who would love me as much as I loved them and there would be no walls. I will never forget that talk.
When I enlisted in the Navy despite him telling me not to sign any papers, I found myself in a strange predicament. I remember calling him miles from home all on my own. He advised me to not be naïve and see things as they were. I have a habit of giving one the benefit of the doubt. He sees things black and white. His advice that day prevented a disaster.
One of our most memorable talks, was around the time I was 30 years old. I drove to his house and told him we needed to talk. I needed to understand where he was at and the values he held. I needed to know if he believed in the things he had taught me. It’s hard to explain, but in many ways I had found myself at a crossroads dissecting every value I had, every value I was taught.
I asked some hard questions that day on the hill.
I remember one question I asked him.
He responded, “I don’t really know Christine”.
In that moment I saw my dad not as a father, but as a man, a human, a person just trying to figure out life as they went.
I understood then that he doesn’t have all the answers. I understood that he is merely a man. I understood that he learns as he grows. I understood that he never gives up.
It’s true what they say you know. It’s weird how that works.
As a woman, as a daughter, I judge all other men by the value I hold of my father.
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