The Best Dad In the World
I feel like I had the best dad in the world. I knew he wasn’t perfect but he never pretended to be. He gave me so many gifts growing up and was my rock through my turbulent teenage years.
The most invaluable gift he gave me was I knew he adored me. How did I know that? Every time I walked in the room his face lit up. He would smile ear to ear, even when I was an angst-filled teen. He wasn’t smiling because of how I was performing. He was smiling because he genuinely liked me.
I never felt criticized by my dad even when I made below-mediocre grades in High School. One day during my junior year at St. Agnes Academy, I was driving to school in my parent’s car. I called this the big yellow barge. It was raining and I was late. As I steered the car quickly to get a parking space, I smashed into a big cement pillar that was going to be the base for a light pole. But there was no light pole and so I didn’t see it in the rain. After the crash the hood was taller than the car itself. The car looked like a horseshoe but thank God I wasn’t hurt. The principal called my dad and said, Mr. O’Grady your daughter dented the bumper and we need to tow your car.” My dad was a smart man. He asked her, “Then why do we need to tow it.”
They towed it to a gas station and immediately the mechanic told my dad that the car was totaled. I dreaded seeing my dad that night. He walked in the house and gave me a big hug and told me how glad he was that I was okay. He then said something that shocked me, “I want you to start driving as soon as you can. I know it was an accident and I don’t want this to impact your driving.”
That was pure grace. What I expected him to say was, “You idiot. You’re never driving again.” I never got in another accident after that.
My dad and I started playing checkers together when I was a little girl. He beat me consistently until I got in High School and then the games started to get close. And every now and then I would beat him. He never got mad. He seemed to enjoy when I beat him. My dad thought I was smart and would tell me so. I didn’t know it then but he was teaching me how think strategically.
My mom and dad complimented each other. My mom had very high standards. There was the right way to do everything. My dad had a “close enough” approach. Don’t get me wrong, he was a very successful businessman, but he was very laid back at home. Once a year when my sister and I were growing up our family would wash all the windows in our house. My sister and mom would wash the inside windows and my dad and I would wash the outside windows. I was so grateful to be outside with my dad. I could peer through the windows and see that my sister had to wash the windows over and over again, because her window wasn’t perfectly clear. My dad would see some streaks and say, “That’s close enough.” It was way more fun with my dad. I never felt like a failure around him.
My dad never lectured me growing up, but he didn’t have to. (Though I did find out much later that behind closed doors he’d complain to my mom about how I was dating some creepy long- haired guy. Then my mom had to play the heavy with me.)
I deeply respected my dad. How he lived and how he treated people greatly impacted my life. My dad was kind to everyone. He would talk to the waiters, the checkers at the grocery stores, the receptionist, and the mechanic. He loved to make people laugh. He had a knack for making people feel comfortable by making light of himself. He was generous and always opening up his wallet to give to someone in need. He was active in his church and served as an usher, on the building committee, or would take a refrigerator to those in need.
My father passed on March 2, 2018. A couple months later I took my mom to lunch in a little tearoom in Sugarland, TX. The owners of the restaurant came up to my mom and said we loved your husband Richard O’Grady. They used to organize a committee to make sure the church had 24-hour prayer. I had no idea that for seven years from the ages 73-80 my dad got up at 2 am and would drive to the church and take his hour slot to pray. My dad did many things behind the scenes that he never boasted about.
I am so grateful for my dad, how he lived his life and the grace he extended to me especially in my teenage years.
This is my story.
And you have your story.
I want the dads to know that you are so important to your teenage girls. They need you. They need your approval and unconditional love. They need your playfulness and laughter. They need you to be their protectors, champions and provide stability in your homes.
And yes, your teenage daughter can push you to the edge. And though you want to give her the lecture of a lifetime, sometimes what she really needs is a little grace. Though your daughter at times may act like she’s embarrassed to be with you dad, know that how you live your life, and how you treat your daughter is having a profound effect on her heart and her future. Even when she acts like she doesn’t care, she is watching you. Be the role model she needs.