I think my dad is the quintessential man. He was instilled with a strong work ethic as a child, working on the farm with my Papaw. Throughout his school years he was a star on the sports field, excelling in sports like baseball, basketball and football. He was a man's man, with a ton of friends he'd carouse town with, drinking, picking up ladies and showing off his hot rod cars. He was twenty years old when he got my mom pregnant, at which point he asked her to marry him, just like a good man "oughta." As a father he was an excellent provider. He was a hard worker, taking in late hours to provide his family with everything we needed and then some.
Throughout most of his early adult life Dad belonged to a softball league put together through his work. The fun part for me was that he'd have the chance to travel all around the state, playing teams from other companies. While he was busy on the baseball field, I'd be running around on the playground where I'd meet kids from different parts of the state.
On one such outing I met two boys who were my age (around 6 or 7), who I thought were kind of cute. When they asked me what my name was I put my hand on my hip and said, "Cinderella." I wanted them to think I was a girl, hoping they'd maybe give me a little sugar. For most of my childhood I was often asked by other kids if I was a boy or a girl, so I was completely convinced that if I told them I was a girl they'd believe me. They were skeptical at first, but I think my powers of persuasion were beginning to work until my dad walked up to take me home.
As he lifted me off the slide one of the boys asked, "Is that a boy or a girl?"
"He's a boy," my dad answered.
"He told us he was a girl and that his name was Cinderella." they screamed. A wave of embarassment shot through me. My dad had told me time and time again to stop "acting like a girl." Now I had been caught red (or pink) handed. On the way home it was just the two of us riding in the car. I remember sitting in the passenger seat with my head hanging down in shame. Finally breaking the silence, my dad asked in a calm voice, "Why did you tell those guys your name was Cinderella? Did you want them to think you were a girl?"
"I was just playing around," I answered. At that point he looked over at me and recited a poem that I'm sure most of you have heard before. It went something like this:
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And all things nice,
That's what little girls are made of.
It may sound odd now, but at the time I found his word choice quite comforting. It wasn't so much what he said, but the gentle, understanding way in which he spoke. It was only then that my feeling of shame was lifted, and I could raise my head up from my chest.
Dad wasn't always so understanding. For a long time he stood strongly against a lot of the "girlie" things I did. I know he was concerned for my well-being, but also I think he was really disappointed that his first-born son wouldn't be following anywhere near his footsteps. I can understand that. Thankfully, the day finally came when he learned to embrace me for who I am. Also, more than anyone else in my family, he has expressed that he understands that I am who I am not because of a choice I made, but because I was born this way. To me, nothing says acceptance more than that.
I love you Dad, for that and for so many other things.
One of my dad's adult ball teams. He's #42 in the middle.
Dad at one of the many ballparks we once frequented.
Derek and I with a girl we met at one of the parks.
Dad after a ballgame. I'm not sure what the "7" means. Points?
Me in one of dad's football jerseys. Maybe I'd be a football player after all!?
Yea... Probably not..