One of my favorite childhood memories involved a very grandiose gesture of being surprised by my dad’s presence at my 6th birthday party. I had been told for months that he would not be there for my birthday because his Guard unit had been called up and they were still going to be overseas on March 17. I remember having fun with my sisters and cousins, but I also remember it being weird.
My dad had already established by that point that he was always around, kind of like the sunshine- even a six year old noticed when he was gone. So, there I was working on being six and enjoying being the center of attention, but knowing things were just not quite right and suddenly, there he was in full fatigues, standing by the cake, and holding a beautifully wrapped “My Friend Jenny” doll. I had that doll for many years and I have the memory to this day. But from this daughter’s perspective, being a father is not all grand gestures. It is the daily grind that we as children don’t appreciate until we have children of our own. It is the sacrifice of the things we want and at times, even the things I need. It is setting the example. It is having shoulders broad enough that they carry the stress of the entire family, and a heart big enough to love not just three girls, but the men that they marry and the grandkids that pepper the back lawn and leave the basketball down by the garage for the fourth time this month.
I am the woman I am today because I am the daughter of Richard London.
He taught me the value of hard work and a job well done.
Every day, he beat the sun out of bed. I can still remember waking up to the sound of his spoon clinking on the cereal bowl that, over time, became my morning alarm as I got up to get ready for basketball practice and he gathered his stuff to leave for work. In the early morning hours, before the house came alive with hair dryers and the morning news, I would stumble down and pour myself a bowl and take in a little bit of peace before the chaos of the day.
He taught me life skills that every woman should know.
This included how to change my oil, how to change my tire, how to balance a checkbook, how to drive a stick shift, and how to shoot a gun. Then, he did all of that and more for us when we needed. In doing this, my dad showed me how I should be treated by a man- capable of anything, but deserving of everything. He also made sure I could cook, bake, sew, and clean with as few or as many ingredients as I had money in my budget for that week (perks of growing up with parents raised by depression era parents). I knew from an early age that a well prepared meal has a way of bringing folks together.
He taught me to stand up for what I deserved, to know what I believed in, to be able to talk my way around just about anything, and that it is okay to take a break.
Every day, he would spend the last 30 minutes of his work day at his desk, prepping for the new Crew Chief to take over and to know what his next day would bring. His work day was ending right about the time that I should be taking an afternoon break (that I consistently worked through for the first five years I was employed). Then, one faithful day he called to ask me a question, but mentioned I could just call him back on my break if I needed. I laughingly said, “Who takes a break?” Me, I did... from that point on. Every day after that comment, at precisely 3:15, my dad called and proceeded to talk to me for 15 minutes. So I took my break. Sometimes, it was an urgent matter. Mostly, it was him training me to take that time to take a breath, making me laugh regaling me with some crazy story that had happened that day, or just checking on me to see how my day had gone. I still talk to my dad daily, even though I stay at home and I do not have to make sure that I put a meeting on my calendar from 3:00-3:30 every day so that I do not miss his call. It is funny how often our calls still happen around the time I am headed to pick kids up from school. I guess he also taught me the value of a good routine. He didn’t have to do that. That was the time he had each day to wrap up his job, but his job of being a dad took priority. We always have, it seems. The value of family was never lost on me.
He taught me to give, even when it hurts.
He taught me that you can have a captive audience with your kid- no matter what age- if you get them in the car alone.
He taught me to tell a story.
Some of my favorite moments involve listening to my dad weave a tale. Seriously, no one can tell a story the way that my dad can. Ask anyone who knows him!
He’s my white knight on a regular basis, still. An amazing model of the kind of dad who never missed a basketball game and always made us work for the things we got.
He also taught me that you are never to old to still be goofy and it is okay to hula thousands of miles away from the people you know, but it’s also ok to bust a move at your local IHOP when a good song comes on over the loud speaker.
He taught me that no matter how much wisdom he has to share, I don’t always listen and often times I should- you do the talking and I’ll do the hurting, right? But, thank you for teaching me to tuck away my pride and ask for help when I need it.
Thanks for everything you taught me, Pop, and for all the lessons I have yet to learn. Thanks for every case of bleacher butt supporting me and supporting my kids- for just being there, always. Thanks for the advice, even if I don’t always listen. Most importantly, thanks for loving me when it was easy and thanks for loving me even when I screwed up BIG.
I am the woman I am today because of you.