A hamburger and milkshake. A dance in the study. A wet rag fight in the kitchen. A phone call to make sure I'm okay. A random card to say 'I love you.' A cleaned out car. A changed oil. A repaired side view mirror. A late night talk in the kitchen. A hug in the morning. A kiss on the forehead. A piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake. These are all things that remind me of my father, and I have an amazing father. It's an undeniable fact. He is awesome.
One of my favorite things that my dad and I have done over the last several years is go on daddy/daughter dates. They take place at various locations, usually over some sort of food. Last year during spring break we had a four-hour date at Silver Diner over burgers and milkshakes. This year, it was over cheesecake.
Over Christmas break my parents discovered that I had never been to The Cheesecake Factory, and my dad was rather appalled by this fact, so, he decided, that when I came back for spring break, we would go on a date to The Cheesecake Factory. I admit, I was quite excited. Even though I don't like cheese, especially not cream cheese, and most dairy products make me sick the majority of the time (yay for lactose intolerance), I do like cheesecake. And, thankfully, it usually does not make me sick. Admittedly, it's not my favorite dessert ever, but I still do enjoy a good piece of cheesecake every now and then. New York style cheesecake in particular.
Well, this past Monday my dad and I went on our long anticipated Cheesecake Factory date. When we arrived at the restaurant and waited to be seated, my dad took me over to thecase where there were dozens of different delectable-looking cheesecakes on display. It was kind of ridiculous. Who knew there were so many different types of cheesecake? I certainly didn't. I mean, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but still, it was a bit overwhelming.
My entire life I've been a daddy's girl, which is kind of funny, considering I'm the only one of three daughters who was born while my dad was gone. I guess it's my own fault for coming a couple of days early. Regardless of his lack of presence at my birth, I've always been his. I thought I always wanted my mom to tuck me in like the rest of my siblings, but no. My mom told me a little while back that I always wanted daddy. No matter what. I was daddy's little princess. Yea, I know that a lot of dad's call their daughter, "my little princess," but for me it's really true. My name means "princess" and my dad's the one who picked it out.
Growing up, my dad wasn't home all of the time, because he was a submariner in the Navy. When he was on sea duty, which was every other tour (basically every 2-3 years), he was gone for half of the year in three month increments. So he'd be gone for three months, back for three months, gone for three months, etc. I'm not gonna lie, it was hard. And I didn't like it. In fact, my dad being gone so much caused me to have an incredible dislike for the Navy for most of my childhood. How could the Navy be good? It was taking my daddy away from me.
But one thing I did love was the days my daddy would come home. I remember one day my siblings and I went with my mom to the beach so we could watch dad's submarine pass by on its way into the dock. It was pretty cool. I also remember the year my dad had to miss Christmas. I was so angry. But he came back the day after Christmas, and it was one of the most exciting days for me. Not only did I get to open presents, I got to hug my daddy for the first time in three months! What could be better than that?
I remember the day I got to go on a dependent's cruise on the submarine. For those of you who don't know, a dependent's cruise is when the dependent's (aka spouses and children) of a military officer get to spent a day hanging out on the boat. Yep. That's right. I got to spend an entire day hanging out on a submarine. Be jealous.
We got up super early, even earlier than everyone else. Why? Because we were the captain's children, so we had to be there early to greet everyone. That part wasn't so fun. But there are perks to having your dad as the captain. For one, his room was much bigger than the sleeping space most officers got, so if I wanted to go take a nap in his room, I could. We also got to eat in the wardroom, which is a special room reserved specifically for the commissioned officers on the boat. It was pretty cool. I remember when my sister and I tried to find our way back to my dad's bedroom after having breakfast in the wardroom...yea, that was an epic fail. We got horribly lost (the submarine was like 560 feet long) and had to ask one of the officers to take us there. Even at 10, I was embarrassed.
When I was growing up, my dad also loved to tell stories and give hugs. He would give what he called the three bear hugs, in which he gave a papa bear, a mama bear, and a baby bear hug. We always asked mom to do them when dad was out to sea, but she could never do them right. My dad also told us lots of stories. He told us stories about the stupid things he did when he was younger including denting his trumpet by throwing it over a fence and sliding on a refrigerator box into a pack of six chihuahuas (my dad still doesn't like chihuahuas). I loved those stories. He also would make up these elaborate stories about this fox and a gopher or a groundhog or something and a bunch of other animals. My sister and I were talking about them last week and I can't believe we can't remember the names of these animals, but one thing I know is true, we loved those stories.
My dad comes from a very musical family. His brother is a professional pianist and musical arranger. His whole family grew up singing songs and playing instruments. He has practically perfect pitch and can sing fantastically. Until a few years ago, I was the most musical child in the family (then my brother started to get serious about music and, well, it was all downhill from there). I started playing piano because my uncle played, and my dad always encouraged me in that. I sang in the kids choir at church. I danced. I started doing plays. I did everything performance-wise that I could. I took breaks from dancing and acting over the years, but the two things I never stopped were piano and singing.
My dad always loved to listen to me play piano, but I always got nervous when someone else was in the room, so he'd stand somewhere where I couldn't see him a lot of the time. But he always came in at some point to offer a word of advice, or, at times, just to say 'I love to listen to you play.' My dad also always encouraged me in my singing. I had my issues with pitch over the years, but eventually I got to a point where I could pretty much sing on pitch most of the time. And in 2007 I was asked to do one of the most nerve-wracking things in my entire life, but it's also something I will cherish forever.
I will never forget when my dad retired from the Navy. It was a hot June day in 2007, and tons of family, friends, and Naval officers had gathered at the Navy Memorial in Washington D.C. to honor my dad's career. I was so excited and I was so nervous. Why? My dad had asked me to sing the national anthem at his retirement ceremony. To some, it may not seem like a big deal, but it was to me. I remember standing up at that podium, looking out at everyone, and kind of freaking out. Not only was this a group of my family, friends, and my dads fellow officers, it was an outdoor ceremony, so there were tourists and spectators stopping and watching. I was terrified. What if I sang off pitch? What if I came in late? What if my voice cracked? What if I couldn't hit the high note?
And then I saw my dad. He was beaming. The look on his face said exactly what I needed to hear at that moment: 'This is my daughter. She's beautiful, she's talented, and I love her.'
My dad's taught me a lot of things over the years. He taught me that sometimes it's best to just slow down when you're trying to learn a piano piece, it comes out a lot better. He taught me that I'm really bad at that whole rag flicking war thing that people do with kitchen towels. He taught me how to laugh at myself. He taught me how to be incredibly ridiculous and random. He taught me that I can be anything I want to be and I should always pursue my dreams. He taught me that I am beautiful and I am loved. But the most important thing my dad taught me was what it's like to love my other Dad.
I've always been incredibly proud of my dad. I bragged about him a lot as a kid. I took great pride in who my father was, and I still do. I respect my dad more than any other man I've ever met and that's not just because he's my dad. Aside from being smart, accomplished and talented my dad is a man of honor, a man of character, but most importantly, a man of God. My entire life my dad has showed me what it's like to have a close personal relationship with the best Father in the world. And I truly believe that it's because of his relationship with the Lord that he has the ability to be such a wonderful father to me and my siblings and such a wonderful husband to my mom.
I look forward to every time I go home because it usually means that I get to go on a date with my dad, and I absolutely love that time when it's just me and him. I love hanging out with him and talking to him because he gives me perspective. He calms me down when I'm frustrated or freaking out. He gives me invaluable advice about life, guys, you name it. My dad knows me so well that once I called him up about a boy problem. I said, 'Daddy, I need your advice.' His immediate response was, 'What's his name?'
On our Cheesecake Factory date, we spent some time talking about the type of man I will one day marry. I asked my dad what he looks for and he told me some things, but one thing he told me is that he's glad I already know what type of man to look for. He's glad that I know to look for a man who truly loves the Lord. I told my dad that I'm looking for a man who loves Jesus more than he loves me. And my dads immediate response was, 'Because then he'll know how to love you.'
I love my dad. I'm so thankful for my him, and I wouldn't trade him for the world. He is truly the model of a godly man and I can only hope that one day I will find a man who can be that example to my children. And I know that I will, because my dad won't let me settle for anything less. He's made that abundantly clear.
When I went on my date with my dad, I was stressed, frustrated and nervous about a lot of things. By the time my dad and I had finished our cheesecake--he chose banana cream, of course--and walked around the mall a bit, I felt so much better. In fact, I felt amazing, because I know that my father loves me and that he's proud of me. I know I'll still have my stressful days and crazy relationship situations where I'll call my dad in tears wondering what on earth I should do, but you'd be surprised what a couple of hours with your dad and a piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake can do.