fatherWhen I was in my late 20s, I had a phone conversation with my father and stepmother about my dating prospects. For about the 100th time, my dad told me that I should leave the big city, move back home and find myself a good-ole boy who hunted and drove a pickup and chewed tobacco. In other words, a guy like him.

The first 99 times he offered this advice, I just laughed it off. This particular time, I decided I needed to set him straight and blurted out, “No offense, Daddy, but I would never marry someone like you.” While I regretted the comment then and for a long time after, I continued to believe in my heart of hearts that I was looking for someone starkly different than my dad.

A few years later, my dog Rufus passed away suddenly. It was early one Sunday morning, when no vets’ offices were open to take the body for cremation. It also happened to be Father’s Day. So, on a day when we were supposed to be celebrating my father, my sister woke him up to find out how to bury a 55-pound dog in my backyard. All my father could do from 200 miles away was talk her through it and listen to me wailing in the background.

Later that same day, my dad climbed in his car and drove the four-plus hours to stay with me for a while. During the week he was there, he helped me assemble a lawn mower, hung a holder for my garden hose, got my sump pump working and took my car for new tires. I made oatmeal each morning, and we ate it together watching the morning news. Each evening, we dozed together while watching TV. We talked about family and life and things we had never talked about before. I got to know a side of him I’d never known before.

At the time, I thrived on the solitude of living alone, but I came to enjoy hearing his voice in the morning and loved handing over some of my many responsibilities to someone else for a while. He distracted me from my grief, his strength propping up my heart when it was “this close” to caving in.

When he left, it didn’t feel like a parent leaving. It felt like I had made a new friend, and I really hated to see him go.

At close to 50, I finally found the man with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. While he wasn’t a country boy like my dad and has never driven a pickup truck (as far as I know), he’s in tune to what I need, listens to me (beyond what any human should  have to do), takes wonderful care of me, and loves animals as much as I do. Thanks, Daddy, for showing me what I needed in a mate after all!

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