Dear Dad,

For your birthday, I wanted to write you this letter to thank you publicly for being a great dad. You did all of the things that dads should do. You played with me in the yard, took me hunting and fishing, taught me how to train a dog, coached my baseball teams, paid for my piano lessons, and attended endless band concerts. You took me to church, taught me about Jesus, gave me relationship advice when I needed it, and helped me choose a college. And you did these things while loving my mom, caring for my critically ill brother, taking care of your own aging parents, and earning a living in noble professions that helped protect lives and the environment. And to top it off, you were the best man in my wedding, traveled from around the world to see your newborn grandkids, helped us buy our first house, and passed down old cars for us to drive. I don’t say thank you enough for all of these things.

Of course you weren’t perfect. Your haircuts were sometimes a bit shorter than I’d hoped, like the infamous time that you gave me a buzz cut but forgot to attach the guard to the clippers. That was the first time that I ever saw my bare scalp, but it was kinda fun to see my grandmother cry when she saw the aftermath. Oh, and remember the times you tried to teach me about auto maintenance? My cluelessness once got you so flustered that you added fresh oil to the truck without putting the oil plug back in. And then there was the time that we got lost in Washington D.C. on family vacation. There may or may not have been some significant profanity involved after we passed the US Mint for the third time trying to find our hotel.

And while I’m thinking about it, let me just go ahead and apologize for always putting my feet under your seat. Now that I’m a dad, I know just how irritating that is. [Apparently I inherited your sensitive rear end.] I also remember that when we were kids you used to say that you wished we obeyed you as well as our labrador retrievers did. I always thought that was a joke. Now I had three kids and a labrador retriever of my own and I realize that you were actually serious, and I have to agree with you. And let me add that I’m rather disappointed that it’s now illegal to transport children and pets in the back of a pickup truck with a camper top. Sadly, my own children will never know the joys of laying on a mattress covered with dog slobber in the back of an old Ford on a 8 hour trip to see the grandparents.

These memories will stick with me until my dying day. I am thankful for them as I am thankful for you. You’ve said many times that when you became a dad you knew nothing about parenting, and that I turned out OK only by the grace of God. To that I would add one thing: you were there for us. You were a constant and consistent presence in my life. You were home in the evenings and on weekends. You spent quantity and quality time with us. You never tried to make up for lost time because you never needed to do so. I don’t know much about parenting, but one lesson I learned from you and mom stands out above the rest – time covers a multitude of sins. Of all the things I have to thank you for on your birthday, I thank you for your time.

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