My self-esteem reached its all-time low in middle school. I was a fat, tall, acne-prone girl with big, thick glasses and too-long hair, who spent all of her time reading instead of doing whatever was popular with the other girls in my grade. I came home crying more nights than not, frequently locking myself in my room so that I wouldn't have to deal with anyone else.
My dad decided it was time to get some more exercise in his daily routine, and one night, came to my room in his neon running shorts and asked if I'd like to come with him so that he would have moral support. I didn't particularly want to, but I did it, just to make him happy. We walked the two-mile circuit around the hospital near my house, and for a while, we didn't talk. Then my dad asked me about something. I don't remember what it was now, maybe school, maybe whatever book I was reading, but whatever it was, it got me talking. And I didn't stop talking until my asthmatic lungs gave out and my mother had to be called to bring me home.
Every night after that, my dad and I went for a walk, the same two-mile circuit, and we talked the entire time. We talked about school and the troubles I was having, work and the troubles he was having, life in general, funny stories, sad stories, everything under the sun, until either we got back home or Mom came and picked me up. I didn't realize at the time how much those walks were helping me, but as the days and then weeks and then months and then years passed, those walks became the place where I learned to care about myself again, and it was all because my dad hates to see me cry.
My dad is amazing. He's strong enough to slam nails through solid shoe heels in one hit and charismatic enough that we can't go ten feet in my hometown without someone excitedly recognizing "the Shoe Guy!" He was honored by the fire department for fixing their equipment free of charge for decades, but couldn't understand the praise because he just saw it as giving back to them for all that they do for us. The same goes for the Patriot Guard Riders. He's always been an amazing craftsman, making me, among other lovely things, a beautiful leather laptop case that could've easily sold for a thousand dollars. He's beyond clever, playing word games with my siblings and me every night when we were kids, and inspiring me to become a writer with the fascinating stories he would weave out of thin air from the very clouds above us. He's also the hardest working person I have ever known, who would pull twelve-hour days to provide for my family, and still have time to play with us when he got home. He's always there when I need him, at the side of the road to fix my car when it breaks down, with a cup of tea and a hug if I've had a long day, or ready in seconds when I call to tell him I need to go to the ER. He'll never say no to someone in need of his help even if he's exhausted because he believes that if he can help, there's no reason why he shouldn't. He would do and has done anything and everything for his family because to him, that's the most important thing there is.
I love my dad more than I can possibly say. There aren't enough words to tell you how much I love him. He is the reason I am who I am and he taught me so much of what informs my ideals even now, and I could never thank him enough for everything he does for me.
Happy Father's Day.