Friday, November 08, 2013

Strong Father Figure--or, Happy Birthday, Dad! (Early!)

Countless times in my life I have overheard this phrase: "Hey, have you gotten Steve's opinion on this?" Before Google, there was my dad.

He's just that kind of man. People care what he thinks. They come to him with problems or concerns. They ask his advice. He is routinely asked to lead a committee or read the Bible passage at church. He is always the man to lead prayer. He's a Presence, and he has this VOICE. I let him read bedtime stories to me long after I could read them myself, because I liked sitting on his lap and hearing the vibrations in his chest. The Voice says something to people, something they subconsciously and viscerally respond to, something primal. The Voice says, "I have recognized you as a human being. I have really seen you. I have really listened to you. And we are in this together. Have no fear; I got your back. I have the situation under control. This is what we are going to do." People HEAR him. You would probably not be surprised to learn that he is a fantastic salesman.

My dad is the kind of man whom would be asked by a group of COMPLETE STRANGERS to, for example, say the blessing. 

He is exceptionally tolerant. I can still list every single time I have seen him angry; that is how rarely it occurs. He is calm. He treated me, and still does treat me, like he would treat a son. He never told me he was too busy for me; he took time to explain things to me until I understood; he told my favorite stories over and over, upon my request, never telling me that he was tired of them. He never laughed at me for using such big words that my mouth could barely fit around the syllables, and, in fact, he taught me more of them. He never censored anything that came out of my mouth, even if it might make him uncomfortable. My ongoing questions about boys and the universe were never too silly for him; and what's more, he never gave me advice until I asked for it. (I discovered boys very early--it's just that it took a little longer for them to discover me.) When I did start dating, he wasn't one of those dads that sits on the front porch cleaning the shotguns, partly because my peace-loving dad has never owned a gun in his life, that I know of; partly because he's not much of a porch-sitter; and mainly because he trusted me to make my own decisions. He never gave my dates the third degree or played twenty questions with them. He only cared if I liked them and if they treated me well, and since--in him--I had a rather stellar example of how a man SHOULD treat a woman, he probably had some confidence that I knew what it was, to be treated well. (Also, to cement my standard for "good treatment", my dad took me on my first date! I would highly recommend this approach, fathers of the world.)

We disagree on many things, but he is compassionate, non-judgmental, open-minded. We discuss politics, gay rights, religion, and he does not get heated. He doesn't discount my opinions, and he allows facts to influence his judgment, instead of the other way around. (Discovering that people DON'T do that most of the time was a real shock.)

He is, in short, a man who taught me that I had a voice and I should use it, even if that meant I would use it to disagree with him. Incredibly smart leaders all over the world have consistently refused to  wrap their heads around this idea, and my father lives by it every day.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Sniff. Sniff.

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