A major event for my family took place earlier this week and I missed it.
My head has been spinning and life has been too much and I simply, and horribly, forgot.
On Monday, my dad retired after 34 years with the same company.
I look a lot like my father. I have his hair color, his nose-shape, his face.
I have his poor eye-sight and not-so-awesome skin.
We communicate differently.
He's (mostly) a quiet man.
He thinks deeply, shows emotion simply.
I've learned a great deal from my dad. I have learned quite a bit more about him through knowing my sons.
My dad grew up with very little.
He was one of eight children in a three bedroom house in rural Illinois.
He worked from a young age. So many jobs - at home, outside of home.
He worked as a janitor to get through school. He worked nights, went to school days.
He studied hard.
He worked hard.
He accomplished much.
Thirty-four years ago with his young wife and new baby girl, he moved from the Midwest to the Deep South and the city of New Orleans to begin his career.
I have watched my dad walk across stage twice - for his second Master's and for his Law Degree. He obtained both of those while working long, long hours for the company he dedicated over half of his life to. He graduated eighth in his class when he received his juris doctor.
That isn't what is incredible to me.
What is incredible is that I cannot remember a time that my Dad wasn't at our dinner table. I cannot remember a time that he wasn't at a soccer game that was important to me. He coached my brother's soccer team without ever having played. He learned the game because we loved the game. He read to us in silly voices, he prayed with us, he sang to us. He took us on trips - not the big, fancy amusement park trips, but the nearly "Griswold" trips where we loaded up in a minivan or station wagon (yes, with the wood paneling) and saw the country. We pulled over so he could show us rock formations which, while I hated it then, I find myself pointing them out to my kids now saying, "Papa could tell you what's special about that". He took the "scenic" route; he made us go camping. He and my mom took us to Yellowstone and to Mount Rushmore. He showed us the country. He took us to D.C. He took us to Chicago. He made sure that when my brother walked across that stage for his college graduation thirteen hundred miles away in New York, we were all there to cheer for him. He let me take his arm the day I married C and he gave me away even though he didn't think I was ready.
I cannot remember a time that I felt that he put us second. Not once. Not ever.
He did not fail us.
He left for work at five in the morning, every morning, so that he could do those things. So that he was present, so that he was active in our lives.
He expected the best of us without ever making us feel stifled. He believed we could in such a way that made us know we were able. Factual. Simple.
So many times I saw him trying to process something in his head - an emotion, or a response, or something illogical - the way that I see Logan do nearly every day. Working so hard to understand the angle or the tone or the words. There is so much of my dad in the boy that looks so much like C. They share the same awkward humor, same whole-face-smile. There is still much of him in the younger one that looks like me. He must always be doing something. He sometimes walks to simply think or to not think. So very much the same. I'm very grateful for that.
He has loved my mom fiercely for nearly forty years. He has raised five vibrant children and held my mother through the loss of one. He is the very best "papa" to eight living grandchildren and to two that I know laugh at his play as they watch over us all.
His eyes twinkle when he laughs. He hums. He talks to himself as he works.
He is both a man of science and a man of faith.
A man of simple wants but of a complicated mind.
He is the perfect example of fatherhood, of discipleship, of humility, of selflessness.
I have watched his hands callus over and his hair turn to gray. I have learned about life watching a quiet man with a calming presence. He has always told his children to "do good things."
He gave the highest example of that simplest request.
He always gave his very best self even when he worried it wasn't enough.
I promise you, Dad, there was never a time when it wasn't enough.