My father is not a famous man. He has never written a book, never wanted to write a book. He’s never been interviewed or quoted or awarded anything much at all.

If you heard his name you would probably ask, Who’s he?

On the outside my dad looks just very ordinary. Medium weight, average height, brownish-grayish hair, blue eyes.

All my years of growing up, he lived in an ordinary tract home, drove an ordinary car, lived an ordinary life.

But my dad is not ordinary.

Born to a poor family, he worked his way through college, earned his degree, and landed a promising job with a large company.  He stayed out of debt, stayed married, and stayed with that same company for over thirty years.

It’s not all the things he has done that make my father special; it’s who he is.

As a man, as a father, my dad is really extraordinary.

Well acquainted with poverty, Dad determined to raise his children to be hard working, responsible people. Fresh as if it were yesterday, I remember being given the responsibility to water a brown patch of the front lawn. My job was to turn that brown grass green. Everyday just before I knew his car would drive into the driveway, I’d be out there proudly showing my daddy that at the impressive age of six, I was his big girl.

And he let me dream. Of course I could be a prima ballerina— if I worked long and hard at it. Certainly I could own a horse of my own— if I worked and saved and didn’t waste my money.

Though I never got through the first class of ballet, I did eventually get my horse.  For years I washed cars, babysat, dog sat, and house sat, until finally I exchanged five crisp hundred dollars bills for my very own bonafide horse.

I think my dad loved that horse as much as I did. He bought himself a pair of cowboy boots, learned the necessary lingo, and took hundreds of pictures.

He entered into my world and I loved him for it.

Somehow Dad just knew me. He’d listen as I jabbered endlessly about nothing, and yet seemed to understand what I didn’t say.

I grew up convinced that Dad could fix anything. If I left my hair dryer on the workbench, I could expect to find it in working order the next day. No big deal. Dad fixed it.

When mom and I disagreed and cried and yelled, Dad helped us to see the problem logically. To work it out. To be calm. Dad fixed us.

As a little girl, I loved my daddy’s hands. Broad and strong, they meant safety to me. When he held my little hand in his all was well with my world. He’d squeeze it every so often, not saying it in so many flowery words, but clearly communicating his love just the same.

Dad never used his hands to spank me; he had a wooden paddle for that. He didn’t’ have to use it very often but when he did he meant to teach a serious lesson. Perhaps the greatest pain those spankings caused me was to my pride. I’d let him down, disappointed him.

Later, when I was too old for spanking and my friends urged me to do something wrong, my response was clear, “No way, my dad would kill me!” Which, translated means, “Its not worth seeing the look of disappointment and disapproval in my daddy’s eyes.”

In my junior year of high school I faced a real identity crisis. I had stopped trying at school, given up being pleasant and nice at home. I was sure no one understood me, convinced no one really cared.

When I handed my dad my very average report card at the end of the semester, I cried and told him I knew I should do better— but just couldn’t.

He seemed to understand.

I got a two-bit job flipping hamburgers at a western-style amusement park that summer. Every day I dressed in a silly looking red and white stripped skirt, plain white blouse and red high top converse shoes with a big red bow in my hair.

Dad said I looked beautiful.

Every evening he asked about my job, the people I worked with, the food I cooked. “An important job”, he convinced me.

Several times, out of the blue, he would walk into that little hamburger joint and order a cheeseburger with the works. He always wore his cowboy boots, always winked at his flush faced daughter, and always declared loudly that it was the best hamburger he’d ever eaten.

He had me convinced I was the best hamburger flipper in the entire U.S.A. I was certainly the most responsible, best looking, top employee that Frontier Village had ever employed— or so said my dad.

By the end of the summer I was standing a little taller and that terrible chip on my shoulder was beginning to melt. That next school year I earned straight A’s and landed a good job at a bank before going on to college.

I have always known that it was Father who straightened me out.

Not with the stern confrontations or harsh discipline so typical of those teenager years. He didn’t draw up contracts I wouldn’t keep or heap on guilt I couldn’t bear. He just encouraged me. A lot. And because he believed in me, I began to believe in myself.

Dad is an engineer, not a psychologist, but he listened to his daughter’s heart and heard a cry for help.

Once again, Dad fixed everything.

On my wedding day Dad sat down with me, held my hand in his, and said,

“Honey, today I am going to give you away to another man.

I want you to know that once you are married you can never come back.

If you and your husband have a disagreement

you’re going to have to work it out together.

So if you’re not sure, now is your last chance to change your mind.”

I cried at the sobering, unromantic reality of his words. He was right, I knew, but somehow it didn’t fit into my world of romance and fairy tales. Yet as he squeezed my hand and smiled quietly into my eyes, I knew that my father was giving me the greatest gift he could possibly give.

He was letting go.

From a heart forever grateful for a Dad like mine,