Dads get a bad rap when it comes to media today. Most fathers are depicted as abusive, or morons, with very few good role models left for men to follow. I guess many of those writers are producing pictures of fathers out of their own wounded experience not having a caring father. My Dad, on the other hand, bested so many difficulties to be a good father to my brother and I. Sure, we made life difficult for him sometimes, but there was never any question that he loved us. His intelligence, love for food, advice, and strength helped to turn me into the man I am today. And I am incredibly grateful.
I always knew my dad was smart. It wasn’t until much later in my life when he revealed that he possessed a genius level intellect. I cannot say I was surprised, because I got to watch the way that he could do nearly anything he set his mind to. I watched him take up gardening, cooking, musical instruments, and computer science as if they were just hobbies. I also watched him become proficient in each one of those complex tasks, all the while managing the house and two rather rambunctious kids.
One of my favorite stories of my dad with me comes very early in my life. He had a goal to make sure that every child in his care could read before they entered Kindergarten. So, my dad, busy with so much else in his life, made time to read to me every morning. My dad was always a morning person, which he passed along to me with reading itself. As he read to me, I began to be able to recognize words and develop my own reading ability. And one morning, I corrected him when he missed a word. It must have been a proud moment for him to realize that I had been learning all the while. He then let me do the reading, but still carved out time for it.
Did I mention how much my father focused on learning? He wanted to make sure that his children were well balanced and had a good base of knowledge to draw from in many different areas. He loves space, and even today, along with my cousin, will do his own research into the latest findings and deep space photographs to better understand the way our universe works. He found such beauty in the stars and planets, and I can still sense the wonder with which he explores the world that God created.
Growing up, we did not have an exorbitant amount of money. But we had enough for a few trips a year, and one of those trips, once I was old enough, was to the Huntsville Space Center. We would spend hours walking the exhibits and touring the rocket park. I would laugh and imagine myself on a space mission with my dad while we sat, crammed, in one of the capsules that brought the astronauts back to earth. Sure, the drive was long, but my dad knew that the time was worth giving. I still enjoy the memories of those retired machines that took human beings further than we had ever been before. And, in a way, I can understand that my dad was giving me one more connection to the rest of humanity – the wonder of space.
My dad was not above using every resource at his disposal for education, either, even television. I bemoan today’s lack of shows like those I had in my childhood; however, I am also well aware that nostalgia often covers up a wealth of sins, such as Power Rangers. My dad would record Power Rangers every day for me to watch when I got home from school and did my homework. He was thoughtful like that. (Seriously, recording back then meant finding a blank or used VHS tape and manually hitting the record button. It took dedication for that sort of thing.) He always showed his love through acts of service, forever on the lookout for that one thing he could do that day to make our day better. And, no, Power Rangers was not the educational bit. Actually, he also took the time to record and watch The Magic School Bus with me. The adventures of Ms. Frizzle and her class through different scientific scenarios fired my imagination and helped me to understand how the world worked. But it meant even more to know that my dad was sitting with me, enjoying the same show and ready to talk about whatever discoveries I had made.
He also worked with me when science projects came around as I grew. If there happened to be some scientific endeavor, my dad was ready to help me. I remember several science kits that he helped me to put together and run the included experiments.
I have continued the habit of study my dad gave me. I spend some time nearly every day to study in my field or one I am interested in. I have found numerous podcasts to keep up on the latest research and findings on everything from politics, world events, and food science. Curiosity is said to have killed the cat, but I know it is one of the things that keeps my dad going, and one gift he gave to me.