My father is a quiet man. If you know me, chances are you still don't know him. He works hard and does what he can for those he loves. He says what needs to be said and leaves the rest for small talkers. He's up early with the sun, and I remember the days he wouldn't be done working until after dark. He can be mean or stubborn or encouraging or gentle- whatever the need might be. He's got curly hair, thinning from age, but it's enough to make you wonder how he might have been at 22. Although he doesn't say much, you can tell he probably has a couple stories worth sharing. He grew up in the cold, learned from his brother's mistakes, and worked for what he had. He headed down South at 21, and except for his family that brings him back every now and then, he never returned to Illinois.
He was a runner. He ran miles and miles, and maybe from more than just the pavement, but he'd never say for sure. It was running that brought him to Alabama, and ultimately into the life of my mother. He always was an honest man, and he gave her all he could: a pair of earrings, her first car, all the love and stability a home could hold. Whatever it took, my father did.
He was a carpenter by trade, a humble but noble career. His works were beautiful, perfectly crafted into a sturdy home, a place a family could rest and be. In his creations, children were raised and houses became homes. In his creations, people came to life and memories were made, and in his creations, we were able to have our own family, our own home, our own life and memories made.
He would bring home animals he found in giant paint buckets, and together we'd nurse them to health and watch them fly or crawl or slither back to life. He'd pull bicycles out of his truck on our birthdays, and one day, when he opened the door, two puppies hopped out. He'd take trips to the store for ice cream or donuts, or crackers on those sick days. He'd carry us where we needed to go, and watch us as we walked away. To school and practice and spend the nights we'd go, and there he was when we got home.
If he's taught me anything, it's to work hard, save a lot, and take time to do what you love. If he's showed me anything, it's to know when to speak and when to listen, and how to love with all you have. If he's helped me in any way, it was to believe in myself and figure out how to do what needs to be done; it's how to become someone I want to be, and how to wait for what I deserve.
Tough love has no more perfect picture as my father, and I know no better man. I am so grateful, more and more as the time goes on, for who he is. I am so grateful, more and more as time goes on, for all the times he's told me no, and the stubbornness I got from him that leads me into my own, sometimes with his head shaking, and sometimes with a smile on his face as he watches me go.