Not every girl in the world is as lucky as me.
He originally wanted to name me Elizabeth Kristen, but my mom decided otherwise. Which I guess after hours of labor, the mom really gets to decide on the name in the end. I’m not too mad about the outcome, because I’d probably be pretty upset if people called me Lizzy or something lame like that. (No offense, Lizzy’s of the world.)
He probably wanted a son first. What dad wouldn’t? To buy tiny little baseball-themed pajamas for, to teach how to build little mechanical trains, to teach how to throw a spiral football. But I think he was happy to get me, a little girl. He still taught me how to throw a spiral football. Knowing how to do it is one of my proudest qualities.
I tried playing sports. For a lot of them, he signed up to coach. Soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball…I just had a knack for, well, sucking at them, and usually ending up on crutches, or in some kind of cast. I felt a little silly, the coach’s daughter, so uncoordinated. So I stuck to dancing. And he came to every dance recital I ever had, bouquet of flowers in hand.
He took me to Father-Daughter dances every February when I was young, when I was a part of the girl scouts. They were always Western themed, and we’d chasse faster than any other dad and daughter couple at those dances. I’d stand on his feet when I didn’t know the steps, and he’d dance for both of us. In retrospect, I doubt I ever even let him even eat dinner while we were there, because I wouldn’t let him leave the dance floor all night. But it was always okay, because he’d take me to the diner afterwards for grilled cheese, always with tomato, and milkshakes.
He’d take me to see the NY Jets – bundle me up in layers for all the games so that I wouldn’t be cold. We went to Mets games too, at Shea Stadium, and out to Nassau Coliseum to see the Islanders. At hockey games, he’d cover my ears when the fans got rowdy so I wouldn’t hear them cursing. I’d still hear them, but I pretended I didn’t, and I’d never say those words in front of him.
He always challenged me. Before I was a vegetarian, he’d make my try absolutely anything. We’d go out to eat and he’d order the strangest thing on menu, and tell me I had to at least taste it, and that I’d love it as long as I tried it. I usually did. We used to visit Pennsylvania every summer and rent a house there, and one summer, he told me he thought I could swim across the whole lake. I didn’t think I could, but I tried. I did it. Once we went to Disney World in Orlando when I was little, and I was scared out of my mind to go on the Tower of Terror. He didn’t really give me a choice, and dragged me on it with him. I had the time of my life, and ever since, I’ll go on any ride in any amusement park.
He even took me fishing once. I stood there, all day, diligently waiting for a fish to bite. Hours in the sun, and I got nothing. But he stood with me, waiting patiently. When the dock was emptying out for the day, he said to me, “Kris, why don’t you try the other side of the dock?” I thought this was dumb – if the fish weren’t biting on one side, why would they be biting on the other? But I did as he said, and within 15 minutes, I reeled in a big, slimy silver fish. And even though it was big enough to take home and cook, he didn’t get angry when I wanted to throw him back in. “Send him home to his Daddy,” I probably said.
I’m just like him, and so we used to fight a lot. We’re both stubborn and don’t like to admit we’re wrong, and we’ll yell and fight to prove that we’re right. High school brought screaming matches aplenty, followed by a few days of awkward silence, and then eventually, we’d be okay again. He got angry at me like every father does at their first daughter. When he caught me drinking, when he thought my skirt was too short, when I came home with a belly-button piercing, when I crashed my first car. But the frustration never lasted. As mine never did with him.
And then for four years, I was over 1,000 miles away. We’d talk on the phone, and I’d send him e-mails once and a while to keep him updated on my life. I did a lot of stupid stuff over those four years, made a lot of messes that I still needed Daddy to help me clean up. Even though he probably shouldn’t have, he did. And even though he probably should’ve torn my head off for some of it, he didn’t. And even though I probably didn’t thank him enough, or say I was sorry, or tell him I felt like a really stupid, irresponsible, and completely out-of-control person, he never said a thing.
When I was sitting at graduation, I texted him from my seat asking if Mom was crying. He responded, I could tell he was laughing, and told me of course she was. I asked if he cried. And he said, “On the inside. I’m so proud of you.” And then I cried. On the outside.
So today, my family sat outside at this little sandwich shop on Bell Blvd. and had lunch and some sangria. And even though he spent most of it telling me, “You’re too young to have a boyfriend,” and “You better have a full time job by fall,” and “You know, after three drinks it’s considered binge drinking…” I listened. Because for 22 years I’ve been blessed to have him in my life; always accepting who I am, and the decisions I make, and the people I associate with, even if they’re not the choices he would have made for himself.
I know we still fight once and a while, but I know that if it came down to it, he’d still let me stand on his feet if I didn’t know the steps. And that he’ll continue to challenge me in everything that I do. And that he will always be there for me, no matter what.
Not every girl is as lucky as me to have a dad like mine.
(Secretly so glad I didn’t graduate with a Music Degree.)