Friday, June 13, 2014

Why I Love My Dad.

On May 27, 1987, John Van Meter became a dad. I couldn't possibly know what he was like before, and I guess until now, I never really thought about it. Now that I'm a parent, I realize that parents are really just people...with kids. I always placed my parents on a pedestal. Thinking about my dad before he became a dad is crazy! I can't even imagine what he was like. 

1991: Daddy taught me to ride a bike with no training wheels. This should come as no surprise since he has cycled thousands of miles in his lifetime. 

When George and I found out we were having a daughter, I knew he was scared. He is one of three boys, and I think the idea of parenting a girl was even more intimidating than just transitioning to the role of parent. Coincidentally, my dad is also one of three boys...and yet, becoming our "Sweet Sweet" seemed to come so naturally to him. I told George to think about the relationship I have with my dad...to think about the way I idolize my father, and realize, he would have a little girl who loved him the same way...if he played his cards right.

Sidenote, George has done an amazing job parenting our little girl, and has even said he loves being daddy to a little girl. There is something really sweet about daughters and their daddies. It's a bond like no other. I will be sure to give Papa Georgio a blog post of his own, going on and on about how wonderful he is to our baby, but on this Father's Day, I'm sliding back into "daughter" role and honoring MY daddy.

About a decade ago, I considered surgery to make my eyebrow height even, and I'm so glad I never did now. Both of our left eyebrows hang slightly lower than the right. I love that my face so closely resembles my dad's. I get told all the time how much I look like Daddy, and it makes me feel so proud.

My dad brought lilies to me on my birthday in the hospital, and has given me birthday lilies every year since. He does the same for my sister, with roses. He has always made us feel special, loved, and safe. 

My 27th bouquet of birthday lilies, from just a couple weeks ago

My dad and I joined Indian Princess ((we have realized in hind-sight this organization wasn't politically correct, but hey, we had some awesome memories, and our hearts were in the right place!!)) ...he went by the name "Brave Wolf," and I was his "Running Rabbit." I remember a Roaring River tribe camping trip, and also one meeting where we hosted...and he did extensive research on a "Black Salve" that his grandfather (("Poppie Joe")) used on wounds. The salve recipe had been handed down from a Native American friend or family member ((my memory is hazy on where that salve recipe came from)). While some dads did crafts that were easy to buy and duplicate...like coloring, or cutting and gluing feathers...my dad took me to various all-natural stores in search of these ingredients, and told me the back story on how he even used this on scrapes when he was a boy. We had the best meeting ((for sure)) when my dad hosted Indian Princess. Now to be clear, my dad didn't do this for brownie points, or to show anybody up. There was no "Pinterest" or "Facebook" for him to use to self-promote his awesome parenting skills. He did it because he cared. He cared about his Poppie Joe, he cared about me, and he cared about connecting the dots. Whether he knew it or not, he was showing me love while creating a childhood memory.

He would later reference our camping trips as an analogy when I was having a tough time in college. I remember one time I called completely stressed out in Norman, and his voice on the other line gave me reassurance,

"College is like a camping trip. In the moment, you're swatting at mosquitoes, you're either burning up desperate for a cool breeze, or freezing your ass off, trying to stay warm as you shiver in your sleeping bag. Setting up the tent is frustrating. Starting a fire is always harder than you think. But when you look back and think about your camping trips, you remember roasting hot dogs, making s'mores, and singing kumbaya around the fire. You remember star-gazing, and the smell of campfire mixed with Off bugspray, and you get this warm fuzzy feeling."

My dad still doesn't have a Facebook, and he may or may not read this blogpost...if he does, I'm sure it will be weeks after it was written. Though he is absent on FB and IG, my dad has a solid group of real-life friends, and he loves getting together over drinks and games. He has biked the Grand Canyon, living out of a tent and setting up camp each night. He has also ridden his bike to Oklahoma from Texas, and has participated in the "Hotter 'N Hell Hundred"multiple times.  He is 53 years old now and can do a headstand, among other really challenging yoga poses. He has done yoga for over a decade, and while I know yoga is not about comparing yourself to others, I must say I think his practice is stronger than anybody I know. I feel like yoga has become increasingly popular among the social media crowd lately, and when I scroll through Instagram or Facebook and see another hot girl in a twisted pretzel pose, suddenly yoga is less about going within, and more about seeking likes and comments from friends. That's not my dad, at all. He's the quiet one in the class who goes in, kicks ass, and leaves. He does it for himself. No need for pictures to prove it happened. So I'm bragging on him now. What can I say? I'm a proud daughter!!! 

"Bring Your Child to Work Day"
(What was in that briefcase I was holding?? Barbies?!)

My dad has also been the provider for our Van Meter unit. I remember as a little girl, I used to say "Thank you for working, Daddy!" on his way to work each morning. He's made sacrifices, worked hard, and put food on the table. One of my fears while pregnant with Lilah Grace was that I wouldn't be able to provide for her in the way my parents provided for me. Legitimate fear. My dad hugged me and told me, "You'll be a great mom." His financial assistance, emotional support, and near-perfect example have absolutely molded me into the person...and mother...that I am today.

I was 7, Daddy was 34, and we were in our old house in Lewisville playing a game of backgammon.

My dad taught ((and still teaches)) me how to play various card games, backgammon, checkers, and dominoes. The classics. He let me sit on his lap and drive the car on our family farm before I ever got my permit, and then once I DID finally get that coveted permit, he took me to the Convergence parking lot and displayed the utmost patience teaching me to drive. I also recall him giving me cues like "go west" or "go north" and getting frustrated at the time, asking "is that left or right?!" I am so grateful for those directions now, because I have an excellent internal compass. I might get lost ((and George would say I do more often than I don't!)) but I ALWAYS know which way is North. My dad taught me that.

I listen to NPR and talk radio. I get that from my dad. I remember drives back home from the farm, or Mimi and GrandDad's, falling in and out of sleep among the soundtrack of "MoneyTalk"...and making fun of it with my sister in the backseat. "MONEYTALK! How BORING!!!" I know now he was listening, learning, and investing in our future. He stays current with the news, and the political landscape, and I never even knew his political affiliation until AFTER I went to COLLEGE. That's crazy. Poor little Lilah will know her parents are bleeding heart liberals as soon as she can talk ((and will probably rebel by wearing camo and getting a CHL as soon as she can)). I really admire how non-biased my parents raised me...with the emphasis on exploring both sides of an issue, and making rational decisions based on all the information.

We went to the Methodist church most Sundays, but in the car on the drive home, Daddy asked us how we felt. What we thought. What we agreed with, and disagreed with. I don't know many parents who engaged with their kids in questioning the sermon after church, but I'm so much better because of his inquisitive nature. Asking questions has strengthened my faith.

When I moved away to college, my mom had to work ((she's a teacher, and it was the first day of school)). It was just me and my dad. I was on the 8th floor, and we took the stairs because the elevator line was a complete joke. After several heavy loads up 8 flights of stairs, the cars were finally unpacked. I tear up thinking about this moment. He handed me an envelope, and said not to get my hopes up...there was no money in there, just something from him. When he left, and I was alone in my new dingy dorm room, I opened the envelope and read the most endearing, loving words from my daddy. He also included lyrics to a song by Nickel Creek...

You got to leave me now, you got to go alone
You got to chase a dream, one that's all your own
Before it slips away
When you're flyin' high, take my heart along
I'll be the harmony to every lonely song
That you learn to play
When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down
I'll keep lookin' up, awaitin' your return
My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn
And I won't feel your fire
I'll be the other hand that always holds the line
Connectin' in between your sweet heart and mine
I'm strung out on that wire
And I'll be on the other end, To hear you when you call
Angel, you were born to fly, If you get too high
I'll catch you when you fall
I'll catch you when you fall
Your memory's the sunshine every new day brings
I know the sky is calling
Angel, let me help you with your wings
When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there
When you come back down
Take every chance you dare,
I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down

Daddy also had good advice for me when I went to New Zealand ((another fantastic life experience, compliments of my parents)) on a conservation trip. He quoted James Michener:

"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home."

When I first tried Vegemite, I thought of my dad. When we played cards by candlelight, I thought of my dad. When I had brunch at the top of Sky Tower in Auckland, I thought of my dad. He's always encouraged me to try new experiences, go new places, and ask tough questions. I think we have very similar spirits. He has a lot going on in his head, but he is careful with his words. He thinks before he speaks. I have yet to master this skill, but I hope he continues to show me how it's done. 

Hard to tell, but the pillow in the background has an excerpt from Desiderata stamped on it.

In my dad's home office, you'll find his grandfather's old time radio ((set to NPR or The Ticket)), photos of all his girls ((my mom, me and my sister, and LG)), a framed photo of his "little brother" ((oh, did I fail to mention he's been a "Big Brother," helping out several boys lacking positive male role models?)), and a framed copy of Desiderata. 

Inspired by my dad, my sister read this at our wedding. The words take on a new meaning every time I read it. 

Daddy walking me down the aisle to Pachabel's Canon...

Daddy giving a thoughtful and heart warming toast at our wedding...
...and us dancing to "Brown Eyed Girl" by one of our favorites, Van Morrison. 

Even after walking me down the aisle, my dad hasn't stopped actively loving me. He always asks before helping out, not wanting to "step on our toes" or interrupt our little "family time" which always cracks me up. George and I are so grateful for his help!! First of all, he and my mom helped us BIG TIME with getting us into our house. They actually found it ((for sale by owner)), and helped us out with a down payment. The yard was a complete blank canvas. My dad has spent many-a-weekend helping spruce up our yard to give us even more pride in our first home. I had a great time creating our first flowerbed with my dad a few months ago! We went to Lowe's, and he helped me pick out plants that would cover the foundation of the house, and that would come back year after year. While it still has a ways to go, the front yard looks so much better! I loved the bonding experience of planting flowers together, and I love that he does things solo without telling me...like planting more grass seed, or cutting the hanging limbs of our tree. When I water our plants, I think about my dad and feel his love. When I step back and look at how much better our yard looks, I feel proud. 

All these wonderful memories aside, one of the best feelings as of lately is seeing him with Lilah Grace. We call my dad the "Sweet Sweet" because he is just so...well, it's obvious. He's a sweetheart! And Lilah absolutely adores her "Papa John". She kicks her legs and arms when I say his name. He just recently taught her to "high five"! These two have my heart in a way I just can't even express in words. 

I'm my father's daughter. I look like him and I aspire to be like him. Even when we had disagreements, Daddy never yelled at me or made me feel inferior. True to the Nickel Creek song he dedicated to me, I really think Daddy is my solid ground. I might not call him with every concern, question, or annoyance like I do my mom...and I don't share a bank account and house with him like I do my husband...and with each of these relationships comes a unique bond that can't even be compared. But when it comes to stable, steady, and loving...that's my dad.  I have taken more chances, and really dug deeply into life, because he encouraged it, and gave me the safety net in case I fell. I am so grateful for the love he has poured into my entire life, and I just want the whole world to know how much I love my dad.

If my dad even reads this, he'll shake his head in modesty. I realize I have totally placed him on a pedestal. But if you are reading, Daddy, you've earned it. You're my solid ground, and my hero, and I love you.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, Lindsay...my eyes have teared up all through this. What an amazing, awesome tribute to your Dad!!!