Thank You, Dad

"For telling me it’s okay to cry."

A Plus' Project Dad content is inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul's Project Dad, a television series about the joy of fatherhood and family.

 My father got his first job at eleven years old, cleaning up the garbage outside of the bowling alley. Two years later his dad died, and my father worked odd jobs to help put food on the table during the Depression. Ten years after that, Dad fell in love, married Mom and had a baby girl. Eight more children followed. During those years, Dad slipped into a routine he never broke. He woke up before six, took the train to work and wouldn't get home until after five-thirty. After supper, Dad spent the rest of the evening in the cellar making dental parts for extra money.

 Two years ago, at the age of sixty-four, Dad retired. When I was young, Mom and Dad did well to hide the fact that we were poor. We all went to Catholic schools and always had plenty of school supplies. We slept in bunk beds, shared one bathroom and watched television from a tiny black-and-white set up in the living room. Mom and Dad never bought anything for themselves. They clipped coupons, wore the same pair of sneakers for twenty years and sewed ripped clothing together every Saturday afternoon.

 At his retirement party, I wanted to thank Dad for all his hard work and sacrifice by buying him the best present I could think of. I wanted to buy him the big-screen television he could never afford or send him on a vacation he never took. As I shopped, I realized there was nothing I could buy that could thank Dad enough. Dad taught me through his own hard work and faith in God that the greatest gifts come from the heart and not the store. That night, I sat down and wrote a list of "Thank You's" to my father for all he had done for me. I left it on the kitchen table for Dad to read before going to work for the final day.

 Thank you, Dad,

 — for waking up every morning when it was still dark outside and going to work, while we slept in our warm beds.

 — for teaching me how to pray.

 — for coming to all my Little League games and for keeping quiet when other fathers wouldn't.

 — for loving my mother with all your heart.

 — for cooking me cheeseburgers.

 — for building that voice inside me that said "no" when I was tempted to get in a car after I had been drinking.

 — for teaching me to hit to the right when I have two strikes.

 — for giving me a hug when I badly needed one.

 — for picking me up from the train station at night when I was afraid to walk home.

 — for smiling often.

 — for helping me buy my first car.

 — for wearing that ugly paper tie I made you in first grade.

 — for teaching me to root for the underdog.

 — for praying for me.

 — for fighting for our country in the war.

 — for teaching me I can never say "please" and "thank you" too often.

 — for giving me life even after you lost a son.

 — for taking me out for ice cream the night I struck out with the tying runner on third.

 — for teaching me to be generous to those less fortunate than me.

 — for being a wonderful grandfather.

 — for telling me it's okay to cry.

 — for being my hero.

 — for being my friend.

A Plus' Project Dad content is inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul's Project Dad, a television series about the joy of fatherhood and family.

Cover image via  Bigbubblebee99 I Shutterstock

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Father's Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirits of Fathers © 2011 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.