Friday, January 23, 2015

The Unsung Hero

I talk on here from time to time about how I am my Mother's daughter and it's true.  Anyone who has ever met both of us will agree.  Several of my friends, after meeting my mom and seeing us together, have made comments like "scary," "creepy," "weird," "Shit, there's two of you," "That explains a lot."

I've heard them all.

I don't typically talk about my dad much on here, and it's not because he isn't around, doesn't participate, or isn't involved.....he just doesn't talk much at all.  But that doesn't mean that he isn't there, right when I need him, every time.

I talk to my mom almost every day now because my mom and I both enjoy the activity of talking!  My dad....not so much.  Anyone who has met him knows that his more of the strong, quiet, silent, keeps-to-himself, stoic type.  As a family we hang out and talk, if we are all driving somewhere and there is something interesting on the radio, we all talk.  And when my dad talks, we all listen.  But one on one, my dad just doesn't talk.

To someone like me, that's pretty damn intimidating.  Ever since I was a small child, my report cards always reflected great grades, but in the teacher comments, there was always a note regarding my willingness to talk.  I'll talk about anything if I'm not particularly busy.  We can talk about dogs, animals, the price of oil, religion and theology, whatever you want, I live for good conversation.  But my dad isn't really good at "conversation." My dad is good at explaining things, my dad is good at instruction, my dad is good at guidance, all of which he does with a level of efficiency that I have never seen matched.  My dad does not waste his words.

So when I am going to go in and talk to my dad about something, I have to pretty much give myself a pep talk.  I have to make sure I have correct facts on whatever it is I'm going to ask him, I have to be ready to be in there for a while, and I have to have my words planned out so that I communicate efficiently, and most of all, I have to be ready to hear whatever he says and marinate on it without interruption.  My dad invites questions, he doesn't mind if there's something I don't understand because I lack sufficient facts and I am seeking clarification.  But my dad does not have words or time to waste on playing devil's advocate and arguing things just for the sake of it.

I AM A LAWYER!!! (sorta) Do You Have ANY Idea How Hard That Is For Me?  The question "Why?" falls out of my mouth almost automatically when anyone tells me anything!!!!

So talking to my dad is hard for me, but it is certainly an exercise in setting aside my pride and picking up a lot of humility, which is something I need to do more often.

Talking to him over the phone is a little easier.  I will admit that some of the best conversations I have ever had with my dad were over the phone.  I think that I have probably exchanged more words with my dad over the phone than I have in person actually.  I don't know if you think that's sad or not, but, whatever, it works. I think it's easier because my dad has a very impressive physical presence.  He's not huge, he's not a body builder, he doesn't look like a bouncer, and he doesn't wear a permanent scowl.  But he is very clearly, as my mom refers to him, The Man In Charge.  In everything he does, even watching TV or cooking, my dad displays a level of focus and concentration that I think most of us would attribute to a battle-seasoned special ops soldier.  I can just watch him watch TV and I can see the level of intelligence working in his brain.  I can see his eye movements and know that he sees everything, notices every detail, and is processing it on the fly.  I'm not saying that I've seen it all, but I've made it a point to expose myself to all different types of people, and I've never seen anyone who worked like that outside of someone with a high level of military training.

That's why I think it's easier to talk to him on the phone.  In person, I can see everything, like I said, eye movement, breathing patterns, body language in general and it's a lot to take in.  

This has all been a squirrel.  The point of all of this post was to share with you something my dad said to me that marked me, that inspired me, that gave me guidance and showed me his love.

Almost two years ago now, I was in my first really bad car wreck.  I absolutely totaled my car but somehow walked away with barely a scratch.  The front driver's side of my car was crunched up literally to the petals.  On top of all of this, I was in a rough place at work and was trying to simply survive financially, while at the same time I was supposed to be preparing for my first dance with the Bar Exam, just a few weeks away.  I talked to my dad every day at lunch for the full hour for two weeks.  During the three days of the bar exam, I talked to him at lunch every day.  I knew in my heart that I had not been able to study and prepare like I should have.  I pretty much only had one week...most people studied for 2 full months.  But every day we talked and he was encouraging.

One day after work, before the bar exam, as I climbed in my rental car, I called my dad to chat for a bit before I started the drive back to my hotel.  He was encouraging me to find my way in life essentially, to find a way to not have to work for anyone else.  He said that there would be no better time in my life than now to "throw the bones." To just go for it.  I was scared.  Scared in general, scared of not having a job, scared of the bar exam, scared because at 25 I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, scared because I didn't feel like I had any real skills that were sufficient to hold me up if I just struck out on my own.  And then he said this:

"Boldness comes from preparation.  The risk is insignificant."

It struck me.  I was still listening to him and letting it sink it, but even though I hadn't had time to marinate on it, I knew I needed to remember those words, so I fumbled around for a pen and wrote it on the back of a receipt.

I repeat this to myself often.  I'm 27 now and I finally have a goal.  I have found that thing that I want to do for work, that will be great work, that will bring fulfillment to my life and that I know will be a more than worthy use of my life and time on earth.  I know that it will be my greatest adventure. It will consume my whole life.  It will require my very best effort.  It will take a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of research and mostly a lot of doing.  It will require that I be strong and healthy.  It will require that I be alert and attentive.  It will require all of me, all of me at my best. And every time I want to quit studying (now going for my 3rd round with the bar exam), every time I want to not work out, every time I want to sit down and eat the ENTIRE package of Oreos sitting in the very top of my cabinet, every time I get scared that maybe this is too big for me and that I'm just not going to be strong enough, I repeat that phrase to myself.

Boldness comes from preparation.  So I will prepare.  Even when I don't see the point, even when I'm tired, even when I have momentarily lost my hope or my sanity, I will prepare because my future is coming and I refuse to let it pass me by.

I'm not sure if you'll ever see this, Dad, but just know that you have always been the unsung hero in my life.  I have never given you enough credit, and certainly never to your face.  Maybe because I just figured you already knew how awesome you are and any extra words on the matter would be superfluous.  But as the talker of the family, you know I always err on the side of saying too much rather than not enough, for better or for worse.  I love you, Dad.

 - Scarlett