That man is my father. (I don't have a picture of him to share with you, I'm sorry.)
My dad and I haven't always gotten along...to put it mildly. You see, our temperaments are cut from the same cloth (me, with a little dash of my mom's temper thrown in for good measure). In my teenage years, I could out-stubborn and out-mule my dad, and that's saying something. I refused, for many years, to receive his hugs or kisses (to my shame).
I used to love being my daddy's girl...I remember loving the adventures we had, going to the bank, or to the mechanic's, or to the auto parts store. I'd hold on to just his pinky finger, for some reason. It was 'our thing.' I didn't get to see him much because he worked a lot, and when I was 9 (10?), he received his bachelor's degree.
Then, something happened....the teenage years. I was awful, but to be honest, when you're a teenager, it feels like everyone is against you - especially your parents. Especially when your parents are as old-fashioned and hard-working as my parents are. Rules? I didn't need rules. I didn't need curfews. I didn't need to bring my friends in to meet my parents, or boyfriends to meet my dad. I am sure my mom sent up many prayers for me (which, I think I'm getting paid back in spades with my little girl). I rebelled - but not too much. My dad told me that if I was ever caught doing something I shouldn't, and taken to jail, that they wouldn't be bailing me out.
Even though I had a strong father and mother, I still allowed myself to be used and abused by boys that I thought cared for me. I didn't disillusion myself - I knew they didn't love me, but I thought they cared for me.
I remember lying to my parents when I was 16, telling them I was spending the night at a friend's, when in reality, I was going to party at my older boyfriend's house (he was 21) and ended up spending the night there because I was so drunk. Well, my dad found out (of course), came and picked me up. I don't think I'd ever seen him so silently mad. I was punished, of course, on top of the monstrous hangover I had (tip: you will never see me toast to someone with a screwdriver, unless I really hate them).
Into my 20s, I still had a contentious relationship with my father. We disagreed on a lot, and I knew my parents were disappointed when I stopped attending church regularly. Then, when I got involved volunteering with the youth group, I knew they were happy about it. When I got married, I knew he liked my husband and approved, and then we had our two children and he was so happy.
Now that I'm in my 30s, our relationship has mellowed out quite a bit, though we still disagree on a lot of things. These past few months, after my mom's death, have shown to me, truly, my father's character. He is a strong, prayerful, hard-working, caring and loving man. He's not a saint, and I know he's made mistakes raising us kids, that he regrets and wishes he could undo. Some of my siblings still resent my dad and can't accept that he is regretful of his past mistakes as a dad and as a man, which I can only pray for the healing of their relationship.
I love my dad greatly and I'm thankful for his strong, Catholic presence in my life. Here's to you, Dad.