Why You Should Embarrass Your Kids

I think we’ve all been there:

You try to connect with a child (maybe even your own) but the kid won’t even make eye contact with you!  Ugh.  I give up.  How am I supposed to build a relationship with someone who won’t even look at me????

Crazy kids.

This, my friends, is where I tell you why my dad is so amazing.

My cool dad and me

For those of you who have been privileged enough to know my dad, you know he’s “unique”.

To paint a picture, imagine growing up with a man who was the perfect blend of Ozzy Osborne, Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber, Kramer from Seinfeld, and Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty.

My dad’s that guy.  He is eccentric, an individual, a creative genius (believe it or not, he is an incredible writer/poet), and, although I didn’t realize it at the time, he was/is a wonderful father.

A little bit of background: until I was 5 my dad worked as a Derrickman on off-shore oil rigs mostly off the coast of Africa and Brazil.  He would be gone for a month and home for about a month.  My earliest memory of my dad is going with my mom to pick him up from the airport.

I was extremely close to my mom because she was the constant.

Dad was goofy and funny and oh- where did he go?  He was supposed to take me to McDonald’s, not go back to work!

When he started a new job that allowed him to be home every day it was strange to have him in a “father” role all the time.  He was supposed to be the fun one who brings me presents, why is he disciplining me?

{Uh, you didn’t get the memo, Dad… I’m pretty much perfect, so…}

He and I loved each other very, very much.  But we weren’t always close.  When my parents divorced he and I went through a rough patch and I shut him out.  He said I reminded him too much of my mom.  I didn’t think he knew how to care for my sister and me as a responsible adult.  I sometimes opted out of visits with him and never had overnight visits.  I didn’t see the point.

The thing about being a parent is that you don’t have the luxury of a time out to reassess and get your shat together.  That need doesn’t compute with kids.  Kids only know what they see and interpret that information as best they can.  What kids don’t have the wisdom to see is that their parents are (hopefully) doing the best they can, too.

All I knew was that my dad moved out, my mom was mad at him, so he must have done something horrible.  People who do horrible things don’t deserve to be treated with respect.

That was my faulty 11-year-old logic.

He didn’t have his own place, he always drove old clunker cars that looked like the doors (yes, all four of them) might fall off while driving down the interstate, his roommates were strange, his living areas were never picked up or clean.

He did weird things like take out the driver seat of his pickup truck and replace it with a bean bag.

{I’m preeetty sure that’s not street legal, Dad.}

He would pick us up from school by driving his car between the trailers behind the school where we had overflow classes instead of waiting in the car pool lane with ALL THE OTHER PARENTS.

Or, I would walk out of high school after the bell and see him waiting right outside the front door cleaning out his car.  No joke.

Imagine, you’re a 14-year-old freshman, you walk out of your high school to see your dad dressed in his old lime green coveralls from his drilling days, buried in the backseat of his car with all of his car doors and trunk open and all his shat laying around everywhere.

{Hey, Baby!  This is my “throw-away” pile, this is my “keep” pile, this is my “give-away” pile.

K, Dad, well, this is my puke pile.  I just puked from embarrassment.  Can we go now?} 

Ugh, why couldn’t he just be normal????

Half way through high school something changed.  I started to accept him for who he is.  I stopped wishing he would be more like the other dads who wore suits, drove normal cars, and were “socially acceptable”.  I started appreciating his quirks.

I began to notice that some of the dads weren’t around all the time.  Mine was.  Some of my classmates didn’t always have a parent watching them from the stands.  Between my mom and dad, I always did.  Some of my classmates had dads that moved far away when their parents divorced.  My dad lived right down the street and popped over ALL THE TIME.

My dad would go to work at 3 am so he could pick us up from school.  Sure, he would show up to functions disheveled and tired and sometimes he would fall asleep.  But he made it.  Sure, he would do embarrassing things and say embarrassing things (I get that from him).  But he was there.

When I was in college he drove over an hour each way twice a week to make sure I was ok, bring Joel Stringer my friends a variety of high-calorie snacks, and take me out to dinner.

When my engine blew up (yes that happened) my dad dropped everything and drove to my sorority house to help me (or see all the beautiful ladies, but whatever).

When I graduated from the University of Georgia my dad was so excited that he was at my house at 8 am.  For an afternoon graduation.

When I was going through the “I don’t respect my dad” phase as a kid, he still called.  He still came over.

It took time for us to rebuild what was lost.  But we did it.  He did it.

My dad never went away.  When I couldn’t physically see him he was still just a phone call away and I always knew that. Not once do I ever remember asking for help that he didn’t say yes.

Even when we became really close again I didn’t fully appreciate his impact on this earth until I received a phone call one day while I was at work from a Sheriff’s deputy saying he was with my dad, it wasn’t good, he was being transported by helicopter from Rockdale Medical Center to Atlanta Medical Center, and I needed to get to him as soon as possible.

I was 9 months pregnant and 3,000 miles away in Seattle.  I was completely helpless.  I had no way of dropping everything and getting to him like he’d done for me so many times before.

My dad had a stroke while he was driving after leaving the dentist office.  He wasn’t expected to survive the night.  He had just turned 54 years old.

I was “supposed” to get cleared to fly with my due date less than a month away and being high risk so it took me a day to get to him.  (Me getting “cleared” went something like this, “Doc, I’m flying so sign this.”  And he said, “I don’t recommend it.”  And I said, “I don’t remember asking for your recommendation.”   Then I lied to the ticket agent about how far along I was and boarded the plane.)

Luckily, my sister and my mom were right there with him the whole time.

{Yes, you read that right.  My saint mother took care of her ex-husband after his stroke.  He even lived with her for YEARS.  The plaque to be placed above her reserved seat in Heaven is being forged from solid gold at this very moment.}

When I finally got to him I started to realize that my dad is even more awesome than I thought.  And I thought he was pretty amazing.

There is nothing like being on your deathbed to bring your friends and family together.  And we filled up the ICU waiting room.

One thing that struck me was the hodge podge of people.  There were people who looked like they just got back from a biker gang convention, people who looked like they just came straight from church, gay, straight, black, white, older, younger.

Then people started telling “Ralph” stories (that’s my dad’s name, b.t.dubs).  There was so much laughter.

Some people where telling stories of all the dumb things they did with my dad when they were teenagers.

(No one should ever be subjected to stories about their parents that involve goats in any way.  Ever.  At all.)

My dad’s social life had always revolved around AA meetings.  I thought it was weird because he’d been sober since before I was born.  He would have lived at the meetings if he could have.

Some of his friends were telling stories about how my dad was their AA sponsor and would be there for them no matter the time of day, in any way they needed.

Then it hit me.

My dad didn’t attend AA meetings all those years just for himself.  He was there to help others who were taking a journey he had already walked.  He volunteered at group and half-way homes.  He sponsored other people who were struggling with sobriety.  He made sure that there was always coffee at the AA meetings and that whoever was having a “birthday” always had a cake.  He always made sure his phone number was written on the board for anyone who needed anything.

My dad didn’t judge anyone.  He accepted you for you, scars and all.  Not once in my life had I ever heard my dad cuss, seen him drink, or smoke.  But ALL of his friends did all of those things and he loved them.  He was the epitome of someone who led by example but didn’t preach.  He parented my sister and me the same way.

His stroke was over seven years ago and my dad is still hangin’ out.  He’s been through so much physically and mentally.  He is bedridden, his right leg has been amputated and right arm doesn’t work.  His speech is severely affected and he has horrible seizures.  He was even dead for a bit.  No big deal.

But he is happy to be alive.

Bella and Papa

My dad holding Bella after his strokes


Bella fell asleep with my dad rubbing her head

Bella fell asleep with my dad rubbing her head

And now he FaceTimes me when I’m in meetings at work.

His nurse likes to dress him up like a pimp.  Imagine sitting at work wishing you were anywhere else then looking at your phone to see your dad wearing a fedora with a feather in it and he’s waving at you.  #love

I wish I’d recognized earlier how brave my dad was to live the way he wanted.  I see that part of his personality in my daughter.

Watching my dad go through everything he’s been through has made me understand how life can change in a split second.  I’ll never see a Life Flight helicopter again without saying a prayer for a family whose life is changing.  I’ll never hear my phone ring in the middle of the day without reliving that horrible phone call from the police officer and doing a quick inventory of my family to make sure everyone is safe.

I’ll never take anyone in my life for granted.

I used to talk to my dad at least twice a day.  I miss that more than words can describe.  I still catch myself calling him when I’ve had a bad day or something exciting has happened and for a split second I expect to get advice or hear his congratulations.  I miss being able to have a full conversation with him.

Before I moved away it was normal for me to be sitting at a red light and all of a sudden hear Free Bird blaring, look over, and see my dad hanging out of his truck waving at me yelling, “Hey!  Hey!  Pull over at Zaxby’s!”.  Then he’d take me to an impromptu lunch.

I miss getting ice cream with him.  I miss him doing embarrassing things in public.

But I’m so glad that I can still see his face and hear his voice.

And I am so, so glad that he never went away and that he kept trying to connect with me even when I didn’t want him to.

Happy 34th Father’s Day to my wonderful, beautiful daddy.

My dad holding line backer baby Roman

My dad holding line backer baby Roman

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