Thursday, February 28, 2013

Happy Birthday to my father

 My family at a wedding last Spring

Today is my father's 63rd birthday. It was always easy to know his age as he was born on February 28, 1950.

A little bit about my dad, who to me, is one of the greatest people I have in my life.

He grew up in Tennessee about 30 miles from Knoxville. His childhood wasn't exactly glamorous. His father passed away due to a bad valve in his heart when my father was 6. My father has always worked. When he was 7, he was the paperboy. He has a strong sense of work ethic and is the hardest working person I know. (He is "retired" now.)

He would tell me that in college he worked the night shift - 11pm-7am, take the early classes and be asleep by noon. He did this all through college. In fact the first job he had out of college they hired him for the night shift because they knew he could stay awake during those hours.

My brother and I wanted for nothing when we were growing up. We had amazing family vacations, various fun toys, and our college paid for. My dad wanted my brother and I to "have fun in college, because I didn't get to." And we did. When I say that we wanted for nothing - it is true. We had all of the "things" one needs in life - but we also had every non material thing one could imagine. We had a loving home with two parents so in love, family time, laughter, and a house so full of love. I count my immediate family as my "best friends." We talk almost daily - and I wouldn't want it any other way. We have a family that now, as an adult, I find to be so incredibly rare. I owe every ounce of who I am to that loving family my parents made. We even have a text message group for just the four of us that we text pictures, what is happening in our day or just funny jokes to each other. This helps us stay connected. This makes me so happy.

B, my brother, Dad, me, mom and Abuelo at my College graduation
My dad also said that the moment I turned 15 and was able to work that it was time I got a job. And I did. I have always had one since.  I don't think work ethic is learned - I think it is within each person or not. I hope to have at least half of the work ethic my father has.

He traveled a lot, but also took us to those places. When he was working on a big deal on Wall Street, I met him for a week there- to watch Broadway shows, have tea at the Plaza and shop at Bloomies.  When he was working on a deal in New Mexico, my brother would go and meet him there and go skiing. As a family we would go on our school breaks to wherever my father was meeting with clients. We traveled everywhere. Some of our travels include things that few can even imagine.
On one of our many trips - this was Hualtulco, Mexico - at the Corona Factory

One of my best gifts from my father was this book called "Why Daughters need fathers" and in it he wrote about life and how life is about experiences. How he hoped that whenever I was a mother I would take my kids on adventures and say "I remember when my parents brought me here." And while I don't have kids, I have more than once said that to B while on vacation. I have traveled much more than most. I am so lucky my parents instilled in me how big this world is.

I'm sure my parents would kill me for this photo - but they were having way too much fun!
My dad is one of the most selfless people. (I think my mom is number 1 in that department and my dad is number 2). As a couple, they are the most selfless and giving people I have ever encountered. They have helped almost every single person in my family through hard times, because it is the right thing to do and that is what families do. Growing up all of our grandparents at one point or another have lived with us. This also helped me get to know my grandparents more than most grand kids do. I was lucky to have all of those years with my grandmothers right there until they passed away. I know their stories, I know their lives and they knew mine - not just a few pictures and a few stories, we KNEW each other. My parents have seen people struggle and always give a helping hand - and on more than one occasion have opened their doors to young people that need a better place to call home. They've opened their homes to family friends whose house was destroyed in Katrina and when people were stranded from Rita - they cooked up all of the pasta, lasagna and everything else in their freezer to give it to strangers stuck in traffic. My parents have taught me that helping others is just what you do.

People come into our home and tell us you can feel the love, hear the laughter and sense the joy we have. This - is what I hope to bring to B and I's house whenever we have children.

Everyone that knows my dad tells my brother and I how "lucky" we are to have him. I tell them I know it.

B and my dad at the "river house"
The reason I know it is because he is on "borrowed" time. I realized last week that I have lived more with him on "borrowed" time than with him not on borrowed time. It is an amazing feeling. You see on December 3, 1995 - my father had a heart attack. My brother and I were sleeping at friends houses that night and my father was supposed to be on a plane. Instead of that late night flight, he wanted to spend the night with just my mom "since the kids were away." He was going to take the morning flight instead.  In the middle of the night he woke up and told me mom he didn't feel right. She said "let's go to the hospital" - and they went.  He has always said if he were to be in a hotel room that night instead of with my mom he never would have gone to the hospital. On the way to the hospital he had a heart attack.

He wasn't given a large change of survival. We were told the circumstance and my almost 13 year old self could not imagine my life without him. This was when I realized my parents were not just my parents, but my mom was looking at life without her husband. I saw the dynamics of love and family.

My dad survived his surgery and the grueling days afterwards. I know so many that don't. Every December I know how lucky I am. I don't need strangers, friends or relatives to tell me that. (Although it is very nice to hear!)

My family at Christmas
So my dad post surgery is even more adventurous. After the surgery my parents bought a new house (a house they had seen  years before and thought "wow who could live here" - my mom called it a home she never could have dreamed of living in). My dad bought a fast car (my mom said the kids were never allowed to drive it - the day I turned 16 and got my licence my dad threw me the keys - my mom protested - it was great to drive in High school), a few boats, and we went on a lot of trips.

My dad always wanted to get his pilots license and fly an airplane. This was a childhood dream, something I don't think when he was 15 he truly thought he could attain. He not only owns his own plane - he built it. Yes, built it. It is built by his own hands (an inspected thoroughly by the FAA).

This past weekend he took his "two babies" flying for the first time. He has been flying for years, but we had yet to go up in his plane. He actually has flown to the airport down the street from my office. I then pick him up there, we go to lunch and then he flies back to my parents house.

This Sunday, it was magical. (A little scary, but magical!) His dream. We saw it come true. I climbed into the airplane, learned the safety rules, buckled up and went on the best flight of my life. (I have been on a lot of planes, but this one was my favorite!)
Being Built
In the hangar
Sunday's flight
You see what happened in 1995, didn't limit my dad from anything. It took 9 years for the plane to be built (9 years, many different hangars, redoing wings post hurricane Ike, and a labor of love.) But now - it is, I think, one of the coolest things someone could do. Not only is is amazing to go to the "airport" - which my brother has dubbed "adult day care" - because it is a bunch of middle aged men that hang out with their planes - but to see my dad accomplish one of his dreams is amazing. To be part of it - is nothing short of a miracle.
My dad later told my mom that it was a little scarey to be flying his babies - but his babies - we loved it.
To my dad:
I am truly so grateful for you and mom. Each year that goes by, I know more and more how lucky I am to have the family you both created. I have always had a loving home that is full of laughter. I never knew it growing up, but I know it now, how incredibly rare it is to have a family that is so close and actually loves being together. Thank you for instilling in me a sense of adventure, a love of a travel and a love of people. I am so blessed to have you. I cannot wait to have you walk me down the aisle -something I have dreamed about since I was a little girl.  I can't wait for our "father-daughter" dance. I know each of the moments I've had with you for the past 17 years have been moments that I was not guaranteed and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had each of them.
Happy Birthday!
Love you,
A. N.  


Melissa said...

This is a very sweet post. I am close with my dad and I think that the father-daughter relationship is so important in a girl's life.
I love that your dad built his own plane -- amazing!

Dawn said...

I am touched by the wonderful example your parents set and the amazing life they gave you and your brother, but also by the fact that you appreciate how special it is and don't take it for granted. Rare and beautiful indeed!

Dawn said...

I'm wondering if you saw my response to your email? No hurry if you have, but just let me know if you haven't, and I'll resend it! (Spoiler alert: I asked you a very important makeup question!)