When I was about five years old, my dad would take me to the general store and, if I’d saved my allowance enough, we’d choose a model car to build out of tiny wooden pieces.
The model cars sat up on the highest shelf of the toy room, and they disappeared one by one into my possession. We’d drive down to the general store, my dad would let me choose a box, and then we’d drive back up the mountain to our house where the construction process began.
A few years later, when I was around eight or so, I asked my dad for help on a science project. We had to build something using pulleys and levers and lifts, so he helped me design a mining cart with a working elevator shaft. By pulling the string, it’d drag the cart up a ramp and into the mine shaft, then gently down to the ground.
It was ambitious for a fourth grader, and we drew the design up together while adhering to the guidelines my teacher had written out. We worked for hours, even through dinner, and even though my dad had to be at work early the next day, we stayed up late into the night. Around some small hour I’d never been awake until before, my dad caught sight of the time and told me to go to sleep. I hesitated. We’d hit a snag on the project, and we’d made the elevator door too high for the ramp to connect with, and we were brainstorming ways to fix it without starting from scratch. What had seemed perfect on paper wasn’t translating as well into a tangible thing.
I went to sleep worried about the project, convinced I’d failed and my teacher would only give me half credit. When I woke up, my dad had fixed the problem and made the whole thing perfectly functional. I remember giving him a hug and thanking him, pretty close to grateful tears.
Another time, when I had to do a report for school on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, my dad and I thought up a creative approach. We decided to do a fake news cast report. Again, we wanted it to be perfect, so we redid it again and again until late. I was convinced it was terrible. We’d shot it in our dining room, and my mom had given me one of her blazers to wear, but I was too small for it and I was convinced that the whole thing looked way too serious and everyone would laugh at me.
When our teacher asked for volunteers, I was one of the first to put my hand up just because I wanted it over as soon as possible. Then I retreated to my desk, put my face in my arms, and cringed at the sound of my own voice repeating words I could have said in my sleep by then. At the end of the video, I cautiously lifted my head and, to my astonishment, my classmates deemed it cool. I’d never felt relief that profound until that moment, judging by how clearly I remember it. And I knew if it had been up to me I would have recorded something that *was* ridiculous and I’d have stopped at one take just to get it over with, but my dad had pushed for something better, and now I understood the value of giving a project everything you have.
My dad ran his own company and worked relentlessly throughout my childhood (and even now), but I still have a plethora of memories of him always prepared to help and support however he can. He played games with me, he put time aside to help me with school (even when I really, really didn’t want it – scowling at you, math), and he tried his best to give me the best life he could.
My dad’s awesome. ❤