Whether you had a dream dad, a nightmare dad, an absent dad, or an oddball dad, no matter how you’d describe the man who helped bring about your existence, there is no doubt he shaped you one way or another. Even an absence has an influence.
My dad never planned on a being a single father and he did his best. (Pictured: my dad reading me a fairy tale. My dad has a learning disability and didn’t learn to read until he was an adult. He never liked to read, but he often read me stories.)
My dad never pushed me to be anything I didn’t want to be. He left me free to make up my own mind about everything from religion to my future. He had one question for every decision I made. “Will that make you happy?” I’d say yes, and he’d say, “Okay.” My college, my grad school, my decision to join the Peace Corps, my decision to get married and to live in Texas. “Will that make you happy?”
He trusted my choice in friends and where I wanted to go. I cherished how much he trusted me.
Once I said to him, “Someone I know would like me to be her religion, but I don’t want to.” This was a not a subject we’d ever much discussed, and I was curious what he, a Catholic, would say. He shrugged. “You can’t make someone into what they’re not. If you want to be Catholic or Baptist or Buddhist or…” He shrugged again.”Whatever. You have to be whoever you are. You be what makes you happy.”
One reason I write and I make art is that I never had a parent tell me not to. Both my parents (and though they were bitterly divorced, they agreed on this) said that all I had to do when I grew up was be able to put food on my table and do work I wanted to do. “There’s no point in making a lot of money if you don’t like what you do,” my dad said.
I can’t wait to send the books I illustrated to my dad. I think they’ll make him happy.