My earliest memory of Dad is of him lifting my sister and I up to touch the ceiling. This was amazing, of course, because not only was he the world's strongest man to lift us up that high, but he also helped me verify what I had suspected for a long time: that was a tiny stain, not a very patient spider, on the ceiling. Even back then, he was teaching me things. (I hadn't really believed Kim when she told me it was a spider to begin with. Really, I didn't. I did NOT! Moooooommm!)
It was Dad who helped me find my first car. I wanted a little MG. My father was a man of few words. "Hell, no!" he said. Then he found me a Ford Granada the size of a bus. It was this car (and the pepper spray Mom made me carry) that likely saved my life when my brakes failed in the downtown Bronx when I was 21. Dad was right. It was better to mow down bystanders with my hulking metal tank than to have a little sporty car that would have crumpled like a Kleenex as soon as I tapped that first pedestrian. (As I told the courts, repeatedly, my brakes failed. It's not like I could have avoided running over those thirty-six people foolish enough to be walking on 123rd Street at noon.)
As I get older, I still find myself relying on Dad. Recently, I took my car to a mechanic to get an estimate, because it was making a funny noise. The guy quoted me $2400 to fix it. Then I brought it to Dad, who happens to be a master mechanic. (I didn't bring it to him first because he's awfully busy and I didn't want to take advantage of him for the 3000th time in my life.) Dad fixed it for a total of $88 in parts. That's right. My Dad is the coolest dad ever!
Besides being able to rebuild engines and install brakes before breakfast, Dad can also split a cord of wood, shoot coyotes, and evaluate his stock portfolio, all while sitting at the kitchen table. I have seen him help a cow give birth, reel in a tuna from the shore, and catch a snapping turtle the size of a manhole without breaking a sweat. He can whip up dinner for four from just a moldy head of cabbage and a deer's bladder. (It won't be a particularly tasty dinner with those ingredients, but my point is, nobody will ever starve with Dad around.) Most importantly, I have seen the women on Mom's side of the family start going gray at 19, and I have Dad's coloring. This one gift alone from Dad has kept Lady Clairol away for almost 40 years now.
I love you, Dad. Thanks for teaching me how to cast a line and to understand the NYSE and NASDAQ and for your blond hair. And for teaching me, at four years old, that even when the world looks like a scary place full of spiders, you'll be there to show me everything is okay.
Happy Father's Day!