|From the left, my brother Simon, my father, my grandfather, and me.|
From my experience, there are many children who have complicated relationships with their parents. With five children myself, I completely understand this dynamic. Parents have the nearly impossible task of trying to guide their children to be independent thinkers who can make themselves happy without making other people unhappy.
As a result, parents are charged with being loving but also firm, which can be confusing for children. Throw in the fact that children often start off life thinking their parents are perfect--when in reality parents are messed up human beings themselves--and it's easy to see how things get off track frequently.
Anyway, I have a very complicated relationship with my father. But before I get into the complications of our relationship, I want to share the side of him that was perfect.
My Father, the builder
When we were kids (I grew up with two brothers), my father built us a bunk bed that doubled as a fort and had a G.I. Joe emblem painted on the outside. This wasn't a kit. My father actually designed it, went out and purchased the wood, and built it. Of course, we loved it.
But my father also would build things with other materials. For instance, he'd often take the mattresses off our beds, cushions off our couches, and blankets to build forts and secret bases for us. And of course, he'd wrestle us all as we ran around jumping on him, hitting him, kicking him, and pulling his hair. He took it all with a smile.
He turned our garage into a sort of low-budget sports training area by hanging up a basketball hoop on one end for basketball games that could be played any time of year and any time of the day or night. Plus, he cut a hole into another wall that represented a pitching strike zone for baseball, in which I'd spend hours practicing my fast ball. These advantages (that really didn't cost anything but a little imagination and willingness to cut a hole in the wall) helped me and my brothers grow up as athletes.
My Father, the organizer
My father loved games. He'd get all the kids in the neighborhood together to play wiffle ball, football, kickball, run races, complete obstacle courses, whatever. He was like the neighborhood gym teacher or something.
One time he went out and bought a bunch of these cheap plastic BB guns with little yellow rubber BBs, and he had all the kids in the neighborhood gather and have a massive BB gun fight. That's just the kind of thing he'd do.
My Father, the manager
Early on in my life, my father was more of like a stay-at-home mom than a typical bread-winning dad. He had a job here and there until latched on at Domino's Pizza, which is where he finally started to move up the chain of command.
At some point, my father was promoted to manager, and he even got his own store in Beavercreek. I remember there was a big grand opening celebration, and it was an exciting moment for me to see my father doing something so important.
He threw himself into his new role by listening to motivational tapes by big business leaders and motivators, and then he'd often share the main points with me. He worked hard and was rewarded with Manager of the Year honors, bonuses, and endless pizza.
The Good Side
My father always had a smile and an infectious laugh. In fact, he still does from time to time. He's a people person, who never shies away from a crazy idea and thinks anything is possible with enough hard work and the right attitude. Really, there's a lot about him that is good--and even great.
But nobody is perfect, and that's precisely where the real story of our lives often starts to emerge. More on that next Sunday.
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