Surprise! Today as I’m heading for a destination 11,000 kilometres away from home, at this very moment you’re hopefully out in the barn, drink in hand, with your horses and your friends, celebrating your 60th trip around the sun. I am aware that they’re celebrating against your will, but that’s what makes them good friends, right?
You know, Dad—I’m pretty happy with how my life is turning out, and I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a written high five and thank you note for everything you’ve done to help me get where I am today.
Here’s the deal
It was hard thinking of what to get you for your 60th birthday. I mean, it’s a big one! Not to put too fine a point on it, but… YOU’RE OLD!
Don’t worry. I’m old too.
There’s not much I could buy you that you couldn’t buy yourself, or that you don’t already have. So, instead, here’s an illustrated list of all the ways you’ve inspired and helped me through the years.
What do I mean by ‘illustrated,’ you ask? Well, get ready for a deep dive into some absolute BEAUTIES of ’90s photography.
I hope you enjoy this. You deserve it. Pour yourself another rum and coke and get ready.
First, an apology
It’s a hard gig, being a parent, isn’t it? Frankly, just thinking of myself and what an over-read, know-it-all, Hermione Granger-type I was makes me almost not want to have kids myself. I was full of opinions, came home with mysterious piercings, had authority issues, and was… I think the technical term is ‘smartass’.
You’ve done so much for me. Put up with so much shit. Helped me out of so many jams, and let me accomplish so many things. And not only did you do it while raising two other humans, you also raised a bunch of horses too.
You introduced me to a lot of awesome stuff
You talked to me about karate and drove me to tae kwon do lessons, you let me raid your National Geographic collection (sorry about cutting out all those photos), you helped me develop a love of delivery pizza and Chinese food. You introduced me to Star Wars via the ’90s gold-boxed VHS collection, and even set me up with my #careergoals when you introduced me to Indiana Jones (often screened within proximity of the Nat Geo magazines, no less).
Today: I’m 28 years old, working around the world, with a 5th kyu purple belt in shotokan karate, hoping to someday be a PhD like Indy, speak a bunch of languages, and I think I turned out pretty cool.
As for that Nat Geo publication—well, it’s always good to have at least a few goals outstanding. #workingonit
Through the movies we watched together you gave me a love of science, technology, and far off places.
Also, you taught me cool karate moves, even if they didn’t seem very kosher. I recall a conversation that went something like: “Try and choke me out. Now… Go for the eyes!”
You taught me never to give up
Or at least, you taught me an incredible capacity for stubbornness. That’s kind of the same thing, right?
Here’s a question for you:
Are we born stubborn, or do we have stubbornness thrust upon us?
I’m not sure, but we definitely have it in spades. And, because of that, I don’t quit, I keep going, and—much like life—I will find a way.
Also—thanks for letting me watch Jurassic Park when I was way too young. I thought it was so cool. I was terrified of dinosaurs breaking into my bedroom for weeks.
You empowered me to pursue my goals—realistically
Have you seen the Malala documentary? A year or so ago I watched ‘He Named Me Malala’, and every time Malala’s Dad came on screen I teared up. Because even though Malala is amazing independant of her father, it was his speaking up for her education that allowed her to flower.
Cut the metaphor: Dad—you’ve helped me flower.
Whether it was driving me to flute lessons, paying for the gas that let me go to private school 40 minutes away so I could take advanced classes, helping me go on high school exchange in Germany, not groaning too much when I decided to go to journalism school and become a writer instead of a lawyer, or when I decided to raise your nemesis—rats—in the house, as you were killing off the wild ones in the barn.
You’ve always supported my ideas. Usually, with good humour.
You never shot me down, and when I took my grandiose ideas too seriously, you were always there to laugh them off, keep me humble, and point out the holes in my plans that needed filling.
Even when I was an angsty teen and felt that you were buzzkilling my dreams one by one, I know you were only trying to help me find ways that I could pursue what I loved while on stable and sustainable financial footing.
Someday I want to be able to take care of you and mom, and afford my future kids the same opportunities you gave me. With your help I realized that achieving your dreams and self-sufficiency go hand-in-hand, and that making money empowers us to chase our dreams, with the best chariot your money can buy.
I don’t know if you remember this, but once when we were kids you had all three of us brush our teeth in the bathroom while you stood by the light switch putting imaginary quarters in, saying, “There’s another quarter gone, another one, another one.”
I’ve never been so stressed in my life. I still think about that, but I think it helps me save money.
You gave me a great childhood
I grew up with freaking huge Belgian draft horses. So cool! Not many kids where I come from can say that.
Now, was I deathly allergic to the horses?
(Let’s also not laugh too much here that I was born in the year of the horse.)
BUT! Seeing your passion for the horses, whether it was via the latest gossip about their fall fair competition, or while showing me the latest magazine photo of the award-winning horse you trained, taught me to have pride in my passions too.
And, because of your job, we were privileged enough to be able to afford things like extracurricular activities, a nice home, and trips to places like Disney World every few years.
You never asked for recognition
When we’re kids, it’s easy to think we’re the heroes in our own stories. That everything we accomplish is due to our work, and ours alone. It’s easy to forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and that there’s often a whole cast of people supporting us.
Whether it’s the parents spending their time driving us to dance class, or co-signing a student loan so we can pay for university, or who work to put good food on the table, or who put their children’s wants above their own, or who let their children use their precious lawn for a wedding that ends up turning it into a wet and muddy post-apocalyptic mess.
(hmm, not sure what I could be alluding to there).
It was a privilege to grow up with your support. Thank you so much.
Anyway, all of this just to say…
HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY DAD!!!
I love you so much. I hope you have the most amazing day. I’m so glad you’re my Dad.