Repost: This is about my dad, the greatest man in the world.

Note: This post was originally published on April 18, 2011. Today my dad gave me some news that is going to make my life a lot easier, for now. So, in honor of that, I wanted to re-post this tribute to him. Even if you don’t read it, you should scroll down and see the picture of my brother at the bottom. He looks just like T. It’s crazy.

I love you, dad.

Dad & I. Half Moon Bay. One of many camping trips.

So, the origin of this post: My aunt posted on Facebook about how somebody stole a Dooney & Bourke bag from her shop. It sparked a memory for me about the time my dad stopped some teenage thieves. I’m going to go into a little bit more detail about that memory, but then telling my aunt about that memory made me think of another one where my dad acted like a “hero” in my eyes.

This is kind of huge for me.

When I was younger, I thought my dad was the greatest man in the world. After he and my mom got divorced, our relationship suffered. My mom and I were really close, and so I ended up adopting her feelings toward him. Even though there was no outside influence, I felt as if I had to take sides. So I sided with my mom.

For a long time.

I’m not even sure he was aware that I didn’t like him. He still helped me whenever I needed it. He gave me an “emergency” credit card when I went off to college, and paid for every gallon of gas for a few years. He bought me things when I needed things. He sent me money, or let me use the “emergency” credit card, if I needed money. He did a lot for me. And I was appreciative, but always felt like he was trying to buy my love. I made a conscious effort not to take advantage of that, but I probably did a few times.

It was a complicated relationship, but only because I made it so.

Then, I got pregnant.

Calling mom and telling her was easy (although I did wait a day because I was slightly nervous). It was dad I was worried about. I didn’t have a close emotional relationship with him, so I couldn’t guess his reaction like I could with my mom. I was terrified.

I really shouldn’t have been. He had pretty much the same reaction my mom did. He was completely supportive.

It was slow-going, but this really was the moment that my eyes were opened. My dad is still the greatest man in the world. Sometimes I don’t agree with things he’s done, but he’s not a bad person. He is best friends with every single person he meets. You can play “Six Degrees” with my dad. Except it seems like he is three degrees away from everyone. Anywhere he goes, he finds someone who knows someone he knows. And if he doesn’t, he still befriends every single person he meets. Everyone.

He also helps people, as much as he can.

He met a kid fresh out of prison once. The twenty-something was a former gang member and my dad gave him a job at his radiator shop and taught him about fixing cars. He let him stay in one of his spare bedrooms. He gave the kid a second chance, something a lot of people would never do.

After my kiddo was born, my dad bought a little condo for us to live in. So even though I don’t own my own place, I’m paying rent to him rather than some random landlord. I can treat the place like my own and, once I can afford it, I can do any renovations I’d like.

He still helps me like before, but I pay for my own gas. Every once in a while, he’ll take the kiddo for a week. Usually this happens around a time when I really need just a little bit of extra help. Like the first time the ex-husband moved out. My dad took the kiddo to his house for a week because I was feeling so stressed out about the divorce.

The kiddo & my dad. They take after each other.

When the ex-husband and I were sharing a car, and I was having to get up at 4 in the morning to take him to work just so I could have the car to take the kiddo to school and myself to work later that day, my dad gave me a car. Yeah. He said he did it so the kiddo didn’t have to have his sleep disturbed, but yeah, it was for the both of us.

So, yeah, my dad is my hero. I aspire to be like him “when I grow up.”

And now I’m starting to remember these times when he really was “hero-like”.

Hero Story #1: My dad and I were on a bike ride, most likely not going anywhere specific but just riding around town. As we were riding by this convenience store (a mom & pop joint), we noticed these two teen-something boys stealing a carton of cigarettes from the store. As my memory tells me, my dad jumped off his bike, ran after the boys and tackled them. And then he held onto them while the store owner called the police. I waited there, on a grassy spot, next to our bikes. I watched him hold onto those boys until the police showed up. I don’t know what happened next, but come on. My dad was a freaking hero that day. Sure it was only a carton of cigarettes, but he knew that it would matter to the owner of the store and that there was a chance it would help change the paths of those two boys. Did it? I don’t know. But sometimes I like to pretend neither of them turned to a life of crime. Because of my dad.

Hero Story #2: My dad and I are on another bike ride. I remember this happening near a local shopping center, so I think we were on our way home from there. We were waiting to cross at a fairly busy intersection when we heard some shouting. Look over, and there is a man yelling at a woman. I think we saw him shake her up or possibly even smack her. They were a little ways away from us. My dad told me to stay put, partially hidden from a bush. This is where I’m not exactly sure what happened. But my dad went over there and talked to the guy. I think the guy ran away, and then my dad might have called the police for the woman. I wish I could remember. But I do remember the swell of pride that my dad went into a potentially volatile situation to help a stranger. I wonder about where she is, too.

One of these days, I want to ask my dad about these situations. I want to know what he was thinking, what he was feeling, and maybe if he remembers when these events occurred. In my mind, I think I was about the same age. I’m thinking I might have been in fifth or sixth grade.

I’m sure if I thought about it, and even asked other people, more stories like these would emerge. My dad has helped a lot of people. And he never expects anything in return.

When I was in my teens, he would take me and my siblings shopping for our Christmas presents. As in, we would pick out our own presents and totally know what was waiting for us under the tree Christmas morning. There would often be one or two surprises, but we pretty much knew what to expect. And that’s fine. It was our own weird little tradition.

So, on these shopping trips, I always had a really difficult time picking things out. I knew what I wanted, but I always wanted to pick out things that I needed instead. And I veered straight towards the clearance racks almost every single time. My dad (or his girlfriend) would make comments about how different it was taking me shopping, as compared to my sister. She wanted name brand everything. She would spend every last penny of whatever his spending limit was. Me? I had the hardest time and would often come up empty-handed because I couldn’t find a pair of jeans that really fit well or a pair of shoes that I just really liked. I hated shopping (still do) and it would get frustrating. Sometimes he would just end up giving me gift cards or cash to make up for whatever was left over from his spending limit he’d set for my gifts.

And even if I only got one shirt off the clearance rack on our Christmas shopping trip, I would always look up at him and say, “Thank you dad. I really appreciate it.” I tried to thank him every time he bought me something, or did something to help me out. And you know what he always said? He would always tell me that my thankfulness and appreciation was the reason he kept helping me out, kept buying me stuff. It’s the reason he bought me a car when I turned 16, a condo when I was 24, and another car when I was 27. He did it because he knew that I would appreciate it, and because he knew I would never really ask for it.

My dad still tries to do this kind of stuff. He will text me pictures of shoes that he thinks I’ll like and ask if I want them for Christmas. Usually I end up saying no, because they are shoes I would have loved when I was 16 but now I’m 27 and I think I’d look ridiculous in converse that go up to my knee. But he keeps doing it.

He sent this to me in a text message. All it said was “What size?”
I asked him where in the world I would wear them.
He sent me a picture of a teen girl wearing them at the store and said “Shopping.”

So that’s it. That’s my dad. He can’t even be contained in one little blog post. I haven’t even gone into what a man-sized child he is, how he has ADD and has fun with it, or how he is the king when it comes to forgiveness. He makes me laugh. He takes care of his mom (who turns 90 this year) and is still close to all five of his siblings (4 sisters, 1 brother), their spouses (most of them have been married more than once), their children (and children-in-law), and their grandchildren. His side of my family is a giant, wacky, lovable mess of people who love each other unconditionally, and who keep having babies so the family gets bigger pretty much every year (partially because we’re Italian, and partially because these people love babies so damn much). He doesn’t agree with all of the decisions his children have made in their lives, but there has never been a time when he wouldn’t help one of us. He is the poster child for unconditional love in my life.

Brother (in underpants!), Dad & Baby Me. My dad is rocking that mustache.
And I swear my kiddo looks just like my brother.

Thank you, Dad. Thank you for always being there, even when I wasn’t. Thank you for always supporting me, even when I didn’t understand why. Thank you for understanding, even when I was confused. Thank you for everything you have ever done to help anyone. Ever. You are the greatest man in the world.

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