On this Father’s Day weekend, I find my heart a little heavy because I miss my dad. Like most little girls, my daddy was my hero. He was the one man I came to judge all other men by. Under his careful eye, he always encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, take chances and never let fear stop me. I have a feeling he would not be surprised that I helped a vet tell his story. As a matter of fact, he would probably wonder what took me so long.
There are infinite reasons I enjoyed working with Bill to create Nighthawk, but one stands out- he reminds of my dad. Like my dad, Bill is truly a man you can count on. My dad may have passed 25 years ago, but part of his spirit, drive, passion and commitment to his beliefs lives on through me. And lucky for me, his ability to teach through stories, his ability to influence and guide the paths I choose and his ability to show me my strengths live on in Bill.
My dad and Bill share something unique- they inspire through humor, advice and tough love. Each of their personalities is a set of contradictions- a tough and ready to fight for right badass with a gentle and soft heart willing to wipe away my tears. These two men have impeccable gut instincts and a towering, almost intimidating, intelligence and curiosity that helped me find a sense of balance when I traveled to the darkness in my soul.
I didn’t have many role models growing up, but I firmly believe an indescribable bond forms between a father and his daughter the second their eyes meet. My dad was my moral compass, my emotional thermometer and protector of my secrets. He led his life with spirit and conviction that I envied. When he went to his heavenly home, I feared I could no longer navigate the world.
I was wrong, because all those things I envied in my dad were present in me; I just had to believe that. There would be glimmers every now and again, but for some reason, I struggled with fully embracing his gift. Part of me felt I wasn’t worthy. Part of me felt like I could never live up to the standard he set for himself. And, part of me lacked the ferocity and drive that fueled his passions.
What I later came to realize is that I still needed some guidance.
The seed planted by my father’s wisdom and strength never had a chance to blossom. For growth to occur, that seed needed nurtured, protected from the elements and encouraged to grow. I must be honest, I never thought the person to help me get back on track would be Bill. But after a few months of working on the book, that bond I had with my dad was growing with Bill.
Dad is Not Perfect
I know it sounds like I have idealized my father, and there I times, it looks as though I am doing the same with Bill. My dad had his faults; as does Bill. Trust me neither of them could be considered perfect. However, those less than perfect qualities are also shared by both men.
If you told my dad or Bill what they should or shouldn’t do, you’d awaken a sleeping grumpy bear. Oddly, both men could also infuriate me with their strong-willed and determined to win attitude. And, when it comes to Philly sports, both could clear a room with their opinions and tempers.
Flaws Are Fine
Despite their flaws, these two men are gifted storytellers that have taught me valuable life lessons without even realizing they were doing so. My dad would say he was just doing his job, and Bill will say I give him too much credit. Oh look, another thing in common- two well established and accomplished men who emulate humility.
Below are some of the lessons planted by my father’s wisdom and continued by Bill. They are guides to my life’s journey. Lessons taught by the men I trust most: my nerdy, embarrassing and limitlessly loving father; or my dorky, loyal and supportive friend.
Chivalry Isn’t Dead; But Don’t Expect A Knight in Shining Armor
With a society fighting for gender equality, many of us are led to believe the traditional values of chivalry have fallen by the wayside. There is no more pulling the chair out, holding the door open or “ladies first” ideals. However, what my father taught me, and Bill often reinforces in his actions is that these things do still exist. However, if you find a man that sees the worth in these practices, do not expect him to solve your problems and fix everything. Expect to show him the utmost respect.
Never hide your intelligence.
Back in the days of adolescent insecurities, when all my classmates were getting their first boyfriends, holding hands in the halls and sharing kisses by the lockers, I was sitting in the library buried in books, holding my pencil and sharing my notes. When I would complain, my dad always said, “You’re too smart for them.” And while the sentiment was typically met with eye rolls, I soon realized he had a point.
Sometime during the transition into adulthood, after my dad had passed, I reached a stage where I questioned whether displaying my intelligence was worth it. I started to believe that boys like dumb girls and I had wasted my time in the books. Guess what? I was both right and wrong. Boys do like dumb girls, and men, like smart women. The books were worth my time after all.
Both my dad and Bill share a belief that intelligence is an asset and that it deserves to shine.
Failure is Good For You
Dad and Bill’s greatest gift to me was the most important life lesson of all. This lesson is also one of the hardest to accept, but no matter what, failure is inevitable. You won’t get everything you want, and life won’t always go as planned. From being just shy of making the team, to getting the dream book deal, life isn’t always fair. As a matter of fact, life can be damn cruel. Luckily, I had my dad, and now, Bill to remind me why failed experiences are a benefit.
My dad worked his ass off for his family, but he didn’t do it without navigating a few road bumps along the way. No one has. Bill has worked his ass off to get his book published and he will be the first one to tell you that failure sucks, but it is not the end of the world. I am blessed to have had both men teach me to accept my defeats, be aware of my mistakes and keep going.
Know when to ask for help.
As much as they try to prepare us, our fathers know they can’t be there for everything. There will be times when they have to let go and let us figure things out on our own. This can be scary for them and for us, but it’s a reality both parties must be willing to accept.
My dad taught me to be a self-sufficient and independent, but he often reminded me that there are certain things that shouldn’t be handled alone. For example, when my car battery dies, I need to find someone with jumper cables. Or, when I want to walk home at night, I need to find a friend to come with me. I am capable, but I can’t do it all and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Recently, I have been taking on a lot of at home projects that require more than one person. Because of my stubbornness, I kept doing everything myself. I was exhausted, and quickly running out of steam. Then, the worse possible thing happened, I hurt myself. Apparently, I had forgotten that valuable lesson about asking for help. So, as per usual, I reached out to Bill, not for help, but for reassurance. Let’s just say reassurance wasn’t what he offered. He reminded me that some projects are just too big and that the next time I could end up in worse shape. In that moment Bill was sending the message, but I heard my dad’s voice.
It was that moment that made me realize just how lucky I am. I was fortunate to have two men in my life that I could seek for refuge when difficulty arose. First my dad, now Bill, can quell any fear. My dad was the hero who checked under the bed, who distracted me during violent storms, and who made me laugh when I had a bad day. Bill is the hero who taught me to look under the bed myself, embrace the violent storms and laugh at myself when I have a bad day.
Both men helped me grow and both men taught me that we need to put others first. Suffering and making sacrifices for the sake of others, especially our family and friends is what gives life meaning and purpose. Without them in my life, I wouldn’t be the authentic me. I can never repay them, but I can thank them for being the best male role-models a little girl and a big girl could ask for.
Happy Father’s Day
To my dad in heaven, Happy Father’s Day. To Bill, your children are blessed to have you as their daddy, as I am blessed to have you as my friend. Happy Father’s Day to all the men who are willing to be the one their children can count on.