My dad has been many things to me over the years: a protector, a chauffeur, a human ATM dispenser. Most of all, though, he's been a real-life example of what a good man looks like. If it wasn't for him, I never would have recognized the same qualities in my husband when he walked into my life.
My dad doesn't like to be the center of attention, or for people to make a fuss about him, but the truth is that he deserves it. He’s my hero. The way he takes care of so many people and always puts them first just blows me away. From his late mother to his coworkers to his extended friends and family, he's always been around to mow a neighbor’s lawn, pull an extra shift at work, or drive a relative to a doctor’s appointment.
My dad is the first man I ever loved, the parent who played toy cars with me and always had time to listen. He remains a pivotal presence in my life, and still goes out of his way to help me any way he can. The little girl inside me will always be jumping at the chance to go tobogganing with him behind our house. The teenager in my heart will always opt to take a drive and accept his offer to go to the store, just to hang out and spend some extra time with him. The young woman I once was is still sitting around the kitchen table with him somewhere, long after dinner is over, just for the chance to shoot the breeze, discuss current events and get his opinion on things.
Man, I miss those conversations.
Now my father is a grandfather, and a natural one at that. He still loves getting down on the floor to race cars and play with the kids. My heart swells every time I see him taking the same interest in my daughter as he took in me.
He raised my sister and I right. Along with our mother, he taught us manners and the importance of hard work. We didn't act up when he took us out to restaurants or to McDonald's, which was a special treat in those days. He supported our desire for higher education, but he made us pay for it ourselves.
I'll never forget when my dad was laid off from his job when I was a kid. He’d been working at Eaton's, Canada's famous, family-owned department store there for most of his adult life, steadily working his way up in management roles, garnering respect, good money and six weeks of vacation.
Then the company went bankrupt and my father's career went kaput. Having been laid off twice myself, I can imagine how devastating and demoralizing it must've been to start all over again, especially being the primary source of income for a wife and two kids at home.
But my dad did it. He took short-term, low-paying jobs from family friends and just got on with it. My parents never discussed the state of their finances with us. They simply protected us from the stress.
I remember when my dad started driving buses. He would have been older than the average driver. Did it make him self-conscious? He had middle management written all over him, but he enjoyed the change of scene, the lack of office politics.
It wasn't long before he was promoted into a more senior role, but he's kept that respect he had for the people dealing on the front lines of public transit, and it shows. His drivers adore him. They buy him Christmas presents and respond to the way he treats them: as if they are doing an important job.
Because they are. All service people in the trenches of our society deserve our respect and gratitude for what they do to make our lives easier. For getting us where we need to go. More than anything else, I can't thank my dad enough for teaching me the value of being considerate and respectful of other people. I’m so grateful to he taught me such an important life lesson through his own example.
And now he is finally retiring. The cards and presents have already started pouring in from his colleagues. A few weeks ago, he showed me a huge keyboard that they had chipped in to buy him as a farewell gift (he had mentioned wanting to take piano lessons when he stopped working). The gesture didn’t surprise me. He’s just the kind of guy that inspires loyalty and admiration.
We share more than DNA, my dad and me. We have a beautiful history. His phrases, his quirks, our inside jokes—it's all stored up in my memory. Our story has continued with new chapters featuring grandkids and weddings, but at its core, it’s really about a father and daughter who come back to each on a regular basis other to touch base with that unconditional love.