“Your dad looks like a ginger Grizzly Adams.”

My boyfriend said that to me.

It’s true. My dad is growing out this monstrous beard that grows awkwardly along his jaw line and down onto his neck. Until recently, he’s never grown a beard. He’s always kept his hair high and tight, his face clean shaven, with nothing more than a well-kept mustache. Twenty-one years in the Air Force has an effect on how you groom yourself, I suppose.

But his beard really isn’t the point of this post. It was just a mental tangent I felt like sharing.

I miss my dad. My mom posted a picture of him on Facebook and I realized just how little I get to see him.  It’s bad enough that I live in a different state 7 months out of the year. But, once I do get home, he’s always working night shifts and I only see him for about an hour during the day when we’re both home and awake.

My dad is so important to me, for plenty of reasons. We’ve been through a lot together. He’s been with me through heartbreaks and failing grades and all those times I didn’t think I would make it through the day. And I think I’ve been there for him, too. We’ve bonded over our pains.

We’ve also bonded over our love and devotion to family. Ever since I was little, my dad always told me that you put family first. No questions. No excuses. He’s always given his all, sacrificed what he needed to, to make sure that our family is taken care of. And he’s the reason I aspire to do the same.

Another big lesson I learned from my dad is to be like Jesus. I mean, he never said it that way. My dad’s not the religious sort. But he always told me something to the effect of, “When you go somewhere, go to make it better. Leave every place that you go better than you found it. And then, move on. Staying and living in the light of your successes is easy. But that’s not what a leader does; that’s not what you’re meant to do. You’re meant to travel, do good and better what you can, and then continue on your path.”

And hey, that’s what Jesus did. And the Buddha. So, it’s obviously not a bad philosophy to live by. I think my dad really knows what he’s talking about. He’s a pretty smart guy.

The moral of the story is this: I love my dad. He’s my hero, my rock, my mentor, my friend. I’m really lucky. I know many people don’t get to experience such an amazing relationship with their parents. So I’m going to take full advantage of it.

My parents always tell me that they won’t be around forever. While that may be true in the physical sense, I think it’s safe to say that I’ll carry them with me forever. And I’ll teach my kids about them, share their stories and advice, and encourage my kids to share that wealth of knowledge with their families. And then, my parents’ll kind of be around forever. Take that, parents.

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