Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dads out there.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I wanted to say a special Happy Father’s Day to my own dad, but I’m finding it a little hard. I want a unique and authentic way to tell him how much he means to me, but it all sounds so tie and grill and box of golf balls.
That’s exactly why I decided I needed to write this. There are many paternal lessons to be had, but one of the greatest things my dad taught me (besides how to sear Brussels sprouts in lots and lots of butter) is not to back away from the things that are hard in life. He is a person who tackles life head-on and if you are a person—a daughter, say—who has ever wanted to give up on something because you didn’t get it the first time, then my dad wasn’t the kind of guy who was going to coddle you and take you out for ice-cream to make you feel better. My dad was the kind of guy who said, “No pain, no gain” and “Try harder next time.” And then he’d take you out for ice cream.
I went to live with him when I was 13.
My mom (bless her) was raising a two-year old when I was entering adolescence, which I’m pretty sure is the parental equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but even more aggravating. At some point my parents decided that I should go live with my dad—a middle-class bachelor living the good life; a yuppy who ditched work to play golf on Fridays; a guy who ate most of his meals at happy hour with 20 other friends sidling up to the bar and mixing it up. Suddenly, there I was, black-lipsticked and Doc Marten-donning. And suddenly there we were, a totally unconventional family.
The first day I lived with him, he took me—goth-chick that I was—to, ahem, a golf tournament. I’m sure I rolled my eyes several times that morning, and he must have wondered what the hell he had gotten himself into. His friends watched me come over Bay Hill in my torn up Indian skirt and black nail polish. Some of the single ladies were probably surprised that Ali even had a teenage daughter. By the end of the day, though, dad and his friends were cracking jokes with me—the kind you only use to tease a good friend. I still hated golf, but I loved being there on the golf course with my dad. I felt accepted for exactly who I was, by exactly who he was.
As time went on, it became clear that I was far geekier than my dad. I swear, one night when I was in high school, my dad stepped over me to go out drinking while I stayed home reading Kafka. “Call me if you need a ride!” I yelled as he walked out the door with his girlfriend.
One thing we always had in common, though, was butter. Nobody could come between me and my dad and our butter. Other parents were switching to sunny tubs of margarine left and right, but not my dad. Our fridge was often sparse, but there was always ALWAYS good butter, and a veggie or two to scorch with it. So despite our untraditional little family situation, my dad could always get me to eat my veggies.
To the man who did the work of ferrying me through some pretty messy years: Thanks, Dad, from the deepest parts of my veggie-loving, Kafka-reading, golf-adverse self. Thanks for taking me golfing with you. You’re the best.