Let me introduce you to my dad. His name is Tommy. He has three children: my sister, Tiffany, me, and my brother, Erik.
My dad has been a father since he was 17 when my sister Tiffany was born. She was born as a very special person with special needs but my dad didn’t shy away from it. He did everything in his power to make sure that my sister had what she needed to be healthy and to develop to her full potential.
It wasn’t easy for him. For many years, my dad was my sister’s sole caretaker. But he took care of her and he taught her many things and he made the world see my sister. He’d bring Tiffany out in public, say hello to people who walked by, introduced my sister and gave people a chance to see the light that shines from within her. She was involved in what he was involved in.
My dad learned my sister’s language. It was an unspoken language but a language nonetheless and he knew when she was happy, sad, mad, or in pain. Even when the doctors didn’t listen, he persisted because he was going to do everything in his power to help my sister.
He made school boards and legislatures listen to him, hear what he had to say so that my sister and others like her could get the same fair and equal treatment as other citizens. So they could go to school or not be subjected to state hospitals.
He was there for her when her seizures were bad and when she was little, he held her until she fell asleep.
If my sister could speak, I know that she wouldn’t just call my dad, “Dad,” she’d call him “Hero.”
My dad and I have a different relationship than the one he has with my sister. We rocked out together to bands from the 70s and I was always raiding his closet, putting on his water shoes, his tees, his hats, and his glasses.
When I was growing up, my dad pushed me to the best that I could be in anything that I did. I’m now a hard working person because of that. But even though my dad could be tough on me, he had a very fun side that was always looking to give me the most that he could.
He picked me up from school one day and made me cover my eyes with my hands. When he told me to remove my hands, I saw that he had taken me to Chuck E. Cheese on a surprise visit! And at the end of every school year in elementary, he always showed up at school with a box of popsicles for me to pass out to my friends.
He was my coach. Yes, in sports, but also my coach in life.
We are very similar in many ways and in many ways we are not. As I get older, I can see more differences, however, the parts of his personality that I did gain from him, I’m proud to have gained. He gave me the “no one-can-tell-you-no” mindset. He believed that I could do anything, regardless of my gender. He always encouraged me to challenge the boys, and even though I didn’t always listen then, I’ve retained those principles now that I’m older.
My dad was the first person to read my short stories. He was the first person to read my book and to give me constructive criticism. That means more to me than he probably knows because it showed me that he believed in me as a writer.
My sister and I have different relationships with our dad. Regardless, we are still thankful to have him as our father. My sister cannot say how much she appreciates my dad which is why I’m trying to do it for her.
I asked her last night, “If you could say anything to Dad, what would you say?”
She looked over her shoulder at me and gave me a half-smile. Her way of smirking. She curled up onto her pillow and closed her eyes.
I like to think she was telling me that I was silly, that Dad already knew what she’d say.
“I love you.”