Day 185- Dad

I'm not sure how to do my dad justice. He can best be explained through bloopers reels, long phone conversations, and notes written in greeting cards. There's just no way to capture those "you had to be there" moments in words. However, since it is Father's Day, I'll do the best I can... through a list of the top five lessons I have learned from the larger-than-life-too-good-for-words man that I have the privilege of calling Dad.

1. No blood= no tears.

My dad never had any sons, but he did have two daughters who were willing to put down Barbies for baseballs and to do many of the things my dad would have wanted to do with a son. In fact, Dad broke gender barriers by agreeing to coach a local t-ball team and therefore securing my sister as the first female to ever be allowed into the league. He later went on to create a team with an all-girls infield, including his two daughters (of course), that was laughed at by other teams but finished the season undefeated. Go Parma Pirates! Terry Mierzwa... feminist? Kind of, but not so fast...

Dad also liked to have knock down drag out wrestling matches with his girls. The rule was that the first one to cry was the loser. I always lost. To this and many other crying scenarios, Dad always had the same response.

"Are you bleeding?"
"Nnnnn.... nooooooo."
"Then why are you crying?"

Last summer I sliced my finger open-- badly-- while working at the Depot. As the blood gushed out, I calmly bandaged it before returning straight back to work. My male coworkers looked on in awe.

"Doesn't it hurt?"
"Yes. Yes, very much. But I’m fine."

It was bleeding all over the place, but I still didn't cry. I'm Terry's girl.

2. If it's broken, fix it.

There was never anything that went wrong at my house that my dad couldn't fix... or at least there wasn't anything he didn't think he could fix. One of my favorite examples of this came one winter when the pipes froze. Dad could clearly conquer this problem. He called us all into the hallway because if he was going to fix something, he sure did like an audience. He cut a hole in the ceiling, rounded up all of the blow dryers in the house and attached them to a board, plugged the contraption in, and blew a fuse. Fuse fixed. Repeat. Fuse fixed. Repeat. Fuse fixed. Repeat. I honestly can't remember how those pipes were thawed that day. It's possible that his invention eventually worked. It's equally as possible that we had to wait for them to thaw on their own or that we stood shifting from foot to foot in the hall as he tried plans B-E. The important thing here is that Dad does not fail. He simply succeeds... or creates opportunities to use his three favorite words in every way possible. Mother. Humping. And... one that would turn any situation from PG to R.

Over the years, we were called on to help with many projects. I often suspected that Dad didn't actually need help. Rather, he thought that if he was stuck in the basement/yard/garage/shed/barn, someone else should be there with him through it all too. Plus, if he used his three words in their full blown glory with no one around to hear them, would they still be as satisfying? He claimed that we should be learning how to do things for the future. I believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two ideas. That being said, I wish that I would have watched more closely and listened a little better. As I encounter all of the DIY projects in my own house that Dad predicted for my future, I sure would like some of those tips. However, when I can use something that I did learn from our tutorial sessions, I am so proud, and I sometimes even have to call my dad to let him know. This mow's for you, Dad!

3. Just dance!

I think my love of music and dancing, as well as my inability to really shine at either, must come from my dad. This is not an insult. In fact, I consider it sort of a blessing. I will never dance or sing or play an instrument for fame or fortune. However, I do these things on a daily basis with reckless abandon simply for the sheer joy that they bring to my life. I learned this from the dance parties of my youth. Dad would put on records (Cyndi Lauper, if it was my choice) and spin us around the room. He would oblige us in our every dance request, which usually meant pretending to do the lifts from Girls Just Wanna Have Fun or Dirty Dancing or whatever other dance movie we happened to be obsessed with at the time. I can’t explain to you how fond my memories are of these silly nights in the living room.

I still admire my dad for the way he breaks into song and dance whenever he feels so inclined. People love to spout the “Dance like no one is watching” cliché, but while they’re talking about it, Dad is living it. That’s just how he rolls.

4. Punishment and reward… punishment as a reward?

My Dad’s standards are incredibly high (C’mon… have you seen/met my mom? Seriously…). When I was growing up, his inner Simon Cowell would come out a lot when I was desperately seeking approval. You think your room is clean? It’s a “B” right now. Try for an “A.” You think that boy loves you? Get real. You can do better. You can be better, faster, smarter, stronger, nicer. Yes, you are blessed. Don’t let them prayin’ knees get lazy. Gosh, it could be so frustrating sometimes… but you know what? At the risk of never living this statement down, you were usually right, Dad.

Good enough is not good enough. Why wouldn’t I want to be the best? My Dad pushed me to find a higher gear. He led by example. I don’t know any other man who works harder, tries harder, prays harder, loves harder, or plays harder than Dad. When my dad knows that I am doing my absolute best (even if it is only someone else’s good), there is no one prouder than him. With all the pushing comes loving, with all the critiques come the cheerleading, and with all the punishment comes reward. I was once sentenced to pull dandelions from the yard but promised $0.01 for each one I picked. I stayed out plucking until I had the 6900 dandelions I needed to earn me a new dress I had been eyeing. True to his word, my dad paid out with a twinkle in an eye.

My dad also taught me that punishing others could be its own reward, in the nicest possible way of course. We Mierzwas are winners. We win at board games. We win bets. We win even when others don’t realize they’re in a contest. We are trash talkers, we are sore losers, we are even worse winners, and we love every minute of it.

Dad never let me win at anything. Even as a small child. He doesn’t know how. I have the luxury of knowing that I have earned every win… including all those Scrabble wins. Right, Dad? I know this taunting will mean that we have to have a rematch ASAP. I’m okay with that. I’m Terry’s girl.

5. I loved her first.

This is the mushy one. Consider yourself warned.

My dad chose the song for us to dance to at my wedding, and I was so pleased. It was “I Loved Her First” by Heartland, and he may have allowed it to bring a watery eye or two, even in the absence of blood.

But I loved her first and I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she'd find you someday
But it's still hard to give her away
I loved her first

I may be cheating a bit because this is actually two major lessons in one… a twofer! Dad taught me two of the most important things I will ever learn about love. I learned the first lesson through his love for my mother. Oh, how he loves that woman. Even though Manda and I would get all grossed out when we were younger (and still do sometimes) when Dad would pull Mom in for a kiss or say sappy things to her, I truly appreciate the foundation that each gesture laid. Through his adoration of my mom, and the care and respect he gives to his own mother, I learned how I should expect to be treated. I took this lesson so literally that I married a man so much like my father that sometimes all I can do is laugh and shake my head at the two of them.

My dad also taught me how to be loved through his own unconditional love. He is a man who is not afraid to show his feelings. He has never had a problem telling me that he loves me. In fact, he does this quite often. When I was a teenager, this embarrassed me. At times, I would walk away without saying it back, but I would smile deep down in my heart. Sometimes he laughs at me, sometimes he doesn’t understand me, and sometimes (well, one time) he dropped me on my head and left a dent. Always he loves me.

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do

Dad, sometimes (ok, often) I laugh at you.
Sometimes I have no idea what in the world you’re doing, and I don’t always get you either.
One time I worthlessly sobbed in another room while my sister put your toes back on after you cut them off with a mower (Lesson #5.5 Never pull the safety guard off of a push mower. It is there for a reason). Sorry about that.

Always I love you. Happy Father’s Day.

Thank you, Dad, you made my day.


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