I’ve never seen my father without a mustache.
Once sandy brown and thick, the mustache is now gray to match Dad’s hair. “It’s blonde,” Dad corrects. (It’s gray.)
The mustache has always retained the same size and shape. No beard to accompany it ‘cause his ‘stache is a star of its own. Dad trims the upper lip hairs with dedication and tweezers and a small pair of silver scissors.
When I was young, I loved to stand next to Dad in front of our old bathroom mirror. My tiptoes tilted me closer to the sink counter. With Dad’s old, unplugged, silver electric razor in hand, I’d rub the razor head across my smooth cheeks, my mouth, my chin. I’d glance out of the corner of my eye where Dad stood next to me. His electric razor buzzed as he whirled the whiskers away. I smiled. Me and Dad. Shaving together. As dads and daughters do, don’t you know.
My dad’s name is James. Known as Jim, or Jimmy to close family and casual friends. I didn’t understand this when I was younger. “If his name is James, why do people call him Jim?” I wondered.
Even though my dad’s personality is large and distinct, its the everyday, small, meaningless objects that symbolize my dad. They serve as an extension of his personality.
He’s the blue bottle of Suave shampoo. A toothbrush with rigid bristles that turn fluffy ‘cause Dad brushes his teeth with fervor. Closed eyes, furrowed eyebrows. Tooth decay, be gone.
He has a chip in his front tooth, but not on his shoulder.
My dad was a forest green tube of Brute deodorant….until last month, when I made a crack about him wearing Old Spice. “Nope,” he smirked. “I use Axe now.”
“Oh wow, look at you, Dad,” I laughed. “So modern and cool.”
Mom rolled her eyes and tugged her mouth upward. “It was on sale,” she explained. “I bought it for your brother, and your Dad started using it.”
My dad is Bloomin’ Onion at the Outback Steakhouse. NO seasoning. Too spicy.
He’s chicken tenders on the lunch menu at Red Lobster. He’s steak Medium Well.
He’s French dressing.
“You have to have French dressing at your wedding,” he instructed. “You have to.” So we did.
Actually, Dad is all of the foods. Because he will ask you what you had for dinner at the party. He wants detailed answers.
“We had chicken, Dad,” I’ll say.
“Oh, chicken,” he nods approvingly. “Fried? Or grilled?”
“Grilled chicken breasts.”
“What did you have for the side?”
“Sweet potato fries.”
“Pew,” he crinkles his nose. “I like regular fries much better.”
My dad is a dark blue Rick Ford Dealership trucker hat. The snapback kind, never velcro. Mesh, never cloth.
He’s my elementary school spelling words. Every night in the living room, he’d say words, and I’d spell them.
He was there with his blue jeans and T-Shirt and trucker hat and mustache during my third grade spelling bee. Mom had to work at the hospital, so she missed it. Twenty-two years later and she still feels bad…but she shouldn’t. Because Dad sat in a chair while I stood on stage in the cafeteria. And my parents…they’re a team. If he’s there, she’s there.
But I confess…it is Dad’s beaming smile and him twirling me around in a hug after the spelling bee that I remember most. I got third place and took home a golden trophy on a wooden base with a smiling bee wearing glasses. I spelled “possible” wrong. P-o-s-s-a-b-l-e. Dad said I did great and told me he was proud of me. I will never forget it.
My dad is pranks. He’s fart machines under my cousin William’s wedding table, dead fish in the back of a co-worker’s truck, a sign that says “CLARENCE: KING OF THE HOME” on the back of his grandpa’s wheelchair at the assisted living facility.
My dad is strength. He’s worked hard all of his life in the worst of weather conditions. He’s Blue Dickies and NASCAR T-Shirts and a golden farmer’s tan that makes him laugh with pure pride as he holds up his forearm to my pale skin in the summer. “Beat you,” he beams.
He’s the tickling of my toes to wake me up at 6:15 a.m. every morning from middle school to graduation. He’s dusted sugar on top of my Rice Krispies cereal because he could pat it down on top so the milk brushed the sugar but didn’t sink it.
Dad buys bright orange pumpkins on the side stand of a back road that he brings them home to my mom. He hung a glowing red lightbulb outside my window on Christmas Eve to make me believe Rudolph fell off the roof. He loves Christmas and Michigan football and plaid sweatpants.
He calls me “Sis.” Never Lindsay.
He calls my husband “Big Man” and “Sparty.” When Adam asked for Dad’s permission to marry me, Dad replied, “Well, will my grandchildren be raised as Spartan fans or Michigan fans?”
He often jokes that he molded me. The joke is so old that he doesn’t say words now, just a smirk and motions with his hands as if he’s holding clay.
My dad is one of my favorite people in the entire world.
He has the biggest piece of my heart. No one can replace a girl’s dad. No one.
Dad didn’t know if he wanted kids. Mom had to convince him. I think he wasn’t sure he was going to be a good dad.
He was right. He’s not a good dad.
He’s a phenomenal dad.
And next week on his birthday, as we go to Outback Steakhouse for Bloomin’ Onions and juicy steaks and watch him blow out candles on a chocolate cake with fluffy white whipped cream frosting, I will smile at his smile.
I will be grateful for these moments.
And I will feel, for the millionth time in my life, how blessed I am to have James Henry as my dad.