Daddy’s little girl

All I want is for you to be happy.

It was something I had been hearing from him over and over ever since I could remember, so there was no surprise that this was the theme throughout his toast at my 2009 wedding. The speech that wasn’t about my new husband and me, but about my dad and me.

I was happy. I was giving him what he wanted. I thought I was happy.

I had always been his baby girl. His youngest daughter, so naturally he was more protective over me. I was never as strong as my siblings though, extremely vulnerable, not too good at holding my own. So he always did it for me. I depended on him for decision-making. I trusted him more than myself, still do from time to time.

Ironic to see that one major decision I made without him led to the demise of my happiness, or the self-invented happiness I had at the time.

You see, I put my dad in a tough predicament. One in which I suppose many fathers find themselves in when their daughters become “in love.” One in which I have also come to kick myself over and over for even putting him in that position. He didn’t deserve it. He had a picture of my future. The future he wanted for me, raised me to have. The future I didn’t get in the end, or during this short period of my life. But what’s a dad to do when all he wants is for his daughter to be happy? If she thinks she knows what constitutes that happiness, all he can do is support. So that’s what he did. And still does.

Ironic also to see that my dad was also the backbone to my healing process, my hero. Mom and I used to joke that during our Dark Ages, he needed to just hook us up to IVs in the living room and go comatose until it was all over. Dad was going to take care of it all, it was going to be okay. We can laugh at that now. And it is okay now. Because of my dad’s support.

I am forever grateful for the strength he provided in lieu of my own when I needed strength the most.

You see, my dad in the profession that he has, one that is extremely demanding of time and emotion, has a lot on his plate. Every day. I always get a good smile out when people ask what my dad does in the off-season. As if it is a part-time job. Sometimes I wish it was, so he could have a little break for himself.

Little do many people know the sacrifices that he has made for the last 35+ years in collegiate coaching to get where he is. I know these sacrifices weigh on his shoulders from time to time, but I want him to know I never felt sacrificed.

I recently started watching Modern Family, Season 1 (encouraged to do so by my friends). The third episode begins with a question of fatherhood, what it means to be a dad, etc. I believe the quotation that wrapped it all up was that “90% of being a dad is just showing up.”

I think showing up would include much of the following. Rushing home to tuck us in at night after a long day’s work; running on the outside of the fence next to me while running the mile in track growing up (yes, for all four laps around); endless hours he dedicated to tutoring his kids through high school; walking alongside the pool cheering for us kids with every breath of air we took during those summers on the swim team (which we all despised…mostly due to having to wear a swim cap); gasping with his eyes clothes every time I was tossed in the air as a cheerleader; every phone call made to give a pep talk before a college statistics exam; every phone call made to support after those college statistics exams. These are minor examples.

I’d say he showed up. I’d say he’s done more than that, and still does.

It’s a family joke we have that dad is our family manager. He’s our guidance counselor, our tutor, our coach, our friend, our supporter, our provider. The list could go on. I don’t know how he does it with the profession that he’s in, but he does. For all that he does for his family, I’m surprised he can have a profession.

Though, we will definitely all admit it’s not a normal career for a father by any means. We never took family vacations. I guess we still don’t. Growing up I guess our vacations consisted of each one of us kids deciding which away-trip we were going on with dad and the team. I repeatedly chose Minneapolis for the Mall of America of course. I was twelve on one of these trips. If you’ve taken a glance at the picture of myself at thirteen way down at the beginning of the blog, just know that twelve wasn’t too different. And I got to sit next to my enormous crush on dad’s team on the plane ride. A dream come true. I, with braces beaming, complimented his pink shirt. He must have been 20. Corrected me the shirt was actually salmon-colored. My first heartbreak. But it was okay; Daddy was there for me.

Lifetimes later, he’s still there for me. Still consoling me, guiding me. Teaching me what’s right and wrong. I will be forever grateful for the immense support given not just during difficult times in my life, but also for just “showing up.”

6, 16, 26. Doesn’t matter what age I’m at. I’m still daddy’s little girl.

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