Love, Your Biggest Fan.

Dear Dad,
Hi Daddy!  It is Sunday morning, and if I know you, you’ve been up for hours already.  You’ve made your coffee, read the newspaper, took a shower.

You’ve also talked to the cats, maybe talked to one of your brothers, and are probably thinking about going next door to Catherine and Julian’s, and talking to their two tiny girls. 

Christmas, 1986.
Maybe it comes from growing up in a family of eight children, but you’ve always been a big kid.  Which is one of the many, many things I love about you.  The way that toddlers and tiny people are instantly drawn to your presence.  I think you never stopped feeling grateful for having a baby yourself, and kids pick up on that: That you believe they are genuinely so special. 
One of our many Olan Mills portraits, circa 1990.

Now, you were always handsome Daddy, and Mom has been gorgeous from the start.  But man, did I go through an awkward period.  One that didn’t truly wrap up until college.  Still, you always remarked in public about your “gorgeous daughter,” showing off your wallet-sized Olan Mills portraits of us, and placing a huge frame of me on your office desk.  Your lawyer buddies would come by and politely ask, “oh, is that your child?” and you would answer, “YES!  That is MY DAUGHTER!  She got STRAIGHT A’S her very first year in MIDDLE SCHOOL!!!”  
Because you were the proudest dad that ever lived. 
I have no idea where this is!  But I think the year is 1992.  Your Year of Hats.
But in addition to being proud, I think you and Mom both are still dumbfounded / grateful every day that you both made it.  That you went back to school later in life, got professional jobs, and were able to afford raising a child.  
You both came from modest means, and you wanted so very badly for me to succeed.  To have good teachers, and to be able to go to college.  Lessons that were hard-won for you both.
You visiting me at camp in Wimberley, 1995.

A long time ago, I remember you coming to one of my basketball games.  I was in the fourth grade, and I was just horrible.  I shot at the wrong basket, I air-balled when I shot at the right basket, and I constantly let the ball get stolen from me.

I cried after that game, but instead of letting me feel like a failure, you came up with a plan.

“Next time those mean girls start swarming you, just stand still and SWING YOUR ELBOWS INTO THEIR FACES!  That’ll teach ’em.”

Because in basketball, as in life, you knew that if I fought just a little bit harder, I’d get what I wanted.  One of the most amazing things about you, and specifically your marriage with Mom, is that you are among the rare few who married, got divorced, and married each other again.  And the second time, it stuck.

Normally this happens because the wife drags the husband to counseling.  But not you.  You went to counseling totally on your own, because you wanted desperately to understand how you could be a better husband.  How to get back that woman you fell in love with, the one with the pretty legs and traffic-stopping smile.

At Uchiko for my birthday, 2011.

And not only did you eventually get her back, you decided to have a baby together.  No matter that you were stuck at a managerial job you didn’t like, and Mom was waiting tables.  You two have always been big dreamers.
That reminds me of my second-favorite story about you, Dad.  When everyone was going around the circle at lamaze class and introducing themselves, you and Mom decided to lie, and make up new jobs.  The jobs you really wanted.
  So, Mom looked around the room, and announced to everyone that she was an artist.  You smiled and said, “I’m a writer.”
(And I love how a few years later, you went back to school at UT, got your degree in journalism, and started copy-editing for The Daily Texan.  Because you did it!  You actually became that writer.)

Deep-sea fishing in Corpus Christi, 2003.  I think this is at your favorite restaurant, CrawDaddy’s.
Christmas 2010, you holding the homemade jalapenos Ross and I made.

You have always encouraged me to dream big too, Dad.  You and I share a common resentment of sleep, because we want to be up all the time, experiencing everything.  You’ve always, always, got a conspiratorial sparkle in your eye, like you know something the rest of the world doesn’t.  And I think your secret is your child-like fascination with it all.   

I love you so enormously much, Daddy!  And I’m thankful every single day, but especially this one, that you are my father. 

happy father’s day!
Love,
Tolly