This entire year of blogging, one of the hardest topics for me to blog about has been the topic of fathers. I have started at least 3 or 4 blogs about fathers or about my dad in particular, and haven't published any of them. Not even on Father's Day. I think the reason is that fathers (and on a more personal level...my father) are so important, emotional, and complex that I have a hard time putting how I feel about it all into words. And for someone that loves to talk as much as I do...that is saying a lot. I feel like whatever I say, or however I say it, it's not going to be enough.
The thing is, I want to write about my dad. I love my dad so much. His role in my life is so essential to who I was and who I have and will become that I can't really keep it inside anymore. Every time I talk to him, even if it is about checking the oil in my car, it is a precious reminder that he thinks about me, cares about me, and loves me. Our relationship has been complex and hard at times, but my heart is so soft and raw for my daddy's love. The thoughts and memories I write about will be random and unorganized, but I want to write about him...about us.
My earliest memories are of my dad. I wanted to be just like him. When all the other 4 and 5 year old little girls were dressing up in tutus, I was wearing blue jeans, a flannel, and boots so I could go "work outside" with my dad. My hair would be a curly mess on top of my head...just like his. I didn't want my mom to fix it or put it up in pigtails. He would split the wood for our fireplace and let me take small logs over to the wood pile. I was helping my daddy. He was so handsome and strong. He always wore a goatee. I remember once when he shaved it off when I was a kid. I really didn't like it. He didn't look like him anymore. I liked the way his beard would prick my forehead when he kissed me. It was different from my mom's soft kisses. My dad loved to rock in his rocking chair (he still does). I would climb up in his lap and he would sing me the Kookaburra song. "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...mighty mighty king of the woods is he....". I sang this same song when I tried out for 4th grade choir. I got in. He didn't really like to sing and he wasn't particularly good at it, but he would sing for me anyway, which made it even more special.
My dad was a karate teacher and when I was little my mom and brother and I would go and see him compete in tournaments. My dad was larger than life. I remember watching him compete. We would all be on the edge of our seats. My mom would occasionally cover her eyes, but I never did. I felt like if I kept my eyes on him that somehow that would help him win. I remember the relaxed concentration he had. One hand protecting his face, the other landing a punch to his opponents kidneys. Most of the time, my dad would walk off the mat victorious, sometimes with broken ribs or a broken nose...but no complaints. I remember running to hug him. So proud that my daddy was so brave and tough. He would lift me up in his arms and show me off to everyone. I would be covered by his sweat, but I didn't care because my daddy...the guy who just calmly wiped the floor with a guy big enough to be in the WWE...is holding me and is proud of me.
When my dad would get home from teaching karate in the evenings, I would run over and say..."Daddy look..!" or "Daddy listen to this....!" I always tried to have something ready for him to see or something exciting to tell him in order to get his attention. I knew that he was tired so I had to have something really captivating to show and tell or else I might miss my moment. I think this is where my penchant for story telling started. If life wasn't exciting enough to keep him from walking past me and into his rocking chair, then I would have to make it more exciting. Kirk tried to do the same thing, but his stories were much too over the top. Kirk and I would be hopping around my dad as he walked in the door and Kirk would start with, "Hey Dad, Hey Daddy, Dad, Hey Daddy...guess what!? I played with a bear in school today. Yeah. Yep. Ah huh....A REAL BEAR!!!! It was so BIG!"...... Before Kirk could continue on with his tall tale my dad would tell him that lying is bad and tell him to stop telling stories. Unabashed, Kirk would just run off to complete the story to my mom who was happy to hear all about the big bear Kirk wrestled during pre-school recess. That was my moment of opportunity. I would wait for my dad to shake off the bear story, then I would tell him about how I got an A+ on my math test. Wrestling a bear at recess was, unfortunately, more likely than my getting an A on a math test, but I knew that that was what was important to my dad. So I would say it. And he would smile and tell me how proud he was. We would sit in the living room. Me on the couch, he in his big brown lazy boy rocker. And we would watch M.A.S.H. and eat finger-sized slices of colby cheese dipped in ketchup. This was our thing. This is what we did. Katie Tater Bug and Daddy. That's what he called me....Tater Bug. Sometimes if I could manage to out run my mom, and get onto my dad's lap, I would be able to stay up past my bedtime. I would crawl into his lap, lay my head on him, and listen to his muffled laughter bounce around the inside of his chest. As I got older and either couldn't comfortably sit on his lap anymore, or didn't want to sit on his lap anymore, I still did my best to catch him at just the right time to keep him up all night talking. Those moments where I had my dad's full attention are forever burned into my memory like a perfect snap-shot. Some nights my dad would come home with treats for Kirk and I. I don't remember what he would bring Kirk, but he would always bring me a Skor bar or a Sugar Daddy (which was my mom's favorite). Kirk and I would come out of the forts we made in the living room out of pillows and blankets and grab our treats. It wasn't about the fact that I loved Skor bars. It was about the fact that while my dad was away, he thought of me. Did he look at the Skor bar first and then remember me? Or did I pop into his head while he was doing something else and that sent him on a quest to bring me back a Skor bar? I didn't know. I didn't really care. The point was that he thought of me. My dad was and is a man of few words. The most I ever remember hearing him talk when I was a kid, was when he was teaching. My dad was a school teacher before he was a karate teacher. He is a natural speaker. When he is talking about something that he is interested in or loves, he is truly captivating. I think that is where Kirk gets his amazing ability to speak, lead, preach, and inspire people. When Kirk preaches I see him making the same facial expressions and hang gestures that my dad makes. I joined my dad's karate class just to hear him speak....just to be near him. Even if it wasn't just to me that he was speaking. I loved to see his eyes shoot open wide when he was trying to make a point. He was so expressive. When my dad would do karate demonstrations at the schools he would let me help him. I can't tell you how special I felt when he called me down in front of all my peers and he would let me show everyone my self defense moves. In all honesty, I didn't really like karate. In fact, at one point I hated it more than I think I have ever hated anything. But I stayed in my dad's class for as long as I could stand it just so that I could watch him, hear him, even mess up a move on purpose so that he would come over and correct me. My dad was a track star in high school and college. When I got into 7th grade, I joined the track team. I had never run a day in my life. I quickly developed shin splints, but continued to train because my dad told me that he would come to one of my track meets. I'll never forget the track meet he came to. I was running the 200 meter relay. I was the anchor. As I stepped out onto the track into my position, I looked up into the stands and I saw my dad sitting there. He had made it. When the baton hit my fingers I took off like a rocket. I had never run so hard or so fast in all of my life. My lungs were on fire and the cold wind was making my eyes water, but I knew my daddy was watching and I wanted to make him proud. We won. After I got home that night, my dad told me that he was so proud of me. He couldn't believe how fast I was. He told me that he had to do a double take because he couldn't believe it was me he was seeing.
My dad and I have been through a lot together. There are so many aspects of who I am that come from my dad. My dad writes poetry. His heart is sensitive and caring. He is easily moved and easily injured. His facial expressions may tend to be hard, and his appearance tough...but his heart is tender. When he smiles or laughs it's like light the light of a million suns after the darkest night. My dad loves to learn and he loves to teach. He loves to laugh. He loves to tell stories. He loves good music, the ocean, his best buddy Bailey (our dog), and sitting out on the river.
He loves my mom with all his heart. He holds her hand and cuddles with her and kisses her whether there are people watching or not. He smiles at her while she is telling a story. Sometimes he'll reach over and grab her hand while she's talking. He loves my mom for who she is. He tells her she is pretty all the time. He is proud of her for not only how beautiful she is, but how hard working and dedicated she is, what a great mother she is, what a great partner she is, and how entertaining and fun she is. He knows what he has. He found his best friend. They have made it through things that I can't imagine facing. "What God brings together, let no man separate..." (Mark 10:9).
I've been jealous for my dad's love and attention since I could speak and say, "When I grow up, I want to marry Daddy!" No one on Earth can melt my heart like my daddy. Through our ups and downs I have been able to forgive him and he has been able to forgive me. We have both messed up a time or two....but who hasn't? The fact that we have both made mistakes only allow us to understand each other all the more. I feel like over the last few years as I have become a new person in Christ, I have been able to become like that little girl again. I'm not afraid to be vulnerable to my Dad anymore. For all the time that the devil stole from us over the years...God has brought a complete renewing. Our relationship is totally new. Better than ever. Sometimes when I am home, and my dad is sitting in his rocking chair, I'll come over and sit across his lap like I did when I was little. I wrap both my arms around the back of his neck and lay my head on his chest. He smiles and chuckles as his 20-something daughter finds a comfortable spot. He kisses my forehead with his rough goatee. Sometimes, after he realizes that I'm not getting up, he'll start rocking me. These are the moments that I feel God the closest.
Fathers are important.
I love my Dad.
Randy's Daughter, Katie Tater Bug