Thursday, December 25, 2014

Here's How I Know the Christmas Spirit Is Real

**Fair warning: This post has nothing to do with budget, or running, or minimalism, or any goals in general at all. This is purely a mushy I-Love-My-Family-Even-Though-We're-All-Crazy post.**

My mom and dad met when I was 9. That's not usually how the story goes, I know. My mom and I were living in a house in Florida, and my dad moved in next door. My dad was a strapping, young(ish) Englishman, working in Boynton Beach on a visa.

My mom fell in love instantly.

So did my dad. I mean, he didn't fall in love with my mom right away. No, he only had eyes for our Golden Retriever, Rusty.

My dad loved that dog. He would come over to our house almost every day to help us train Rusty or to play fetch. This is where my mom found her opportunity. See, my mom is a world class cook, so she used her kitchenly wiles and made my dad dinner several nights a week.

Eventually my dad couldn't eat food not cooked by my mom, and he made the lifesaving decision to propose to her, lest he starve to death. That's how I see it anyway. Pretty sure it's accurate.

Yes, yes. We're very happy. Now get in the kitchen.

Where did I fit in? Well, for a while, my dad who was not my dad at the time, would try to help me in math, or give me an allowance on the side that my mom didn't know about, or throw me in the pool. 

The struggle was real, guys.

Or take me to Disney World. He did that a lot. That was pretty awesome.

Then I became a teenager and we moved 4 times in 4 years. That was incredibly difficult for me, because I didn't have any friends, and I couldn't play any sports, and I couldn't join any clubs. And I blamed my dad. We fought CONSTANTLY. I "hated" him, and I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty sure he "hated" me too.

There was love there, obviously, but you had to look really hard for it. Like, one time I was driving back to Atlanta for a shift at work when I got caught in some terrible traffic because of a major accident. This was before every person over the age of 5 owned a cell phone, so when I didn't show up for my shift on time, they called my parents' house to try to get a hold of me. When I still didn't show up after an hour, they called again. My dad, without even blinking, got in his car and traced my steps back to Atlanta to make sure it wasn't me in the major accident.

Or like when my engine blew up, or my radiator exploded, or my timing belt snapped - he always helped me out.

But generally our interactions involved us yelling at each other about money and responsibilities. This happened for a solid 12 years. We didn't talk on the phone, we barely spoke when I came home. We, um...we weren't in a good place.

Slowly but surely, as I started to figure out this whole "life" thing and stand on my own two feet, my dad stopped seeing me as a sullen, bratty teenager, and instead started seeing me as a daughter he raised. But we still fought a lot.

Here's where I'm convinced I'm living in a Hallmark movie. So, in Hallmark movies you have this grumpy, grinchy kind of character who used to love the holiday spirit, but who's now withdrawn and angry all the time, right? That's my dad. He wasn't overly generous when I was a teenager - and I'm not just talking about money (that part made sense because he was trying to teach me the value of the dollar, timeless 90s tween wardrobe be damned).

No, what I mean is we rarely spent time together. He tried to teach me how to drive stick shift once, but after about 30 minutes, his fist was clenched on the handle over the window and his face got really red, and let's just say I didn't learn how to drive stick shift that day.

But over the last month he's been a completely different person. I'm not sure what happened (elvish dust and Santa Claus magic, probably), but he's acting like - like a dad. Like the kind of dad you see in commercials and stuff.

E and I are thinking of buying each other bikes, but we aren't ready to commit to that kind of money. So my dad went into the garage, fished out his and my mom's bikes, pumped the tires, put the bike rack on my car, loaded the bikes, and gave me the tire pump.

He saw the wiper blades on my car were in sad disrepair, so he drove me to AutoZone to buy new ones, and installed them for me.

I've been talking about how my Kindle Fire (OG) is outdated and not compatible with newer apps, so when he saw a WinBook on sale, he bought me one.

My dad and I both like craft beer, so I was telling him about how my favorite beer has been out of stock at most stores in Atlanta all season. He called up his local bottle shop, found out they had 3 six packs, and asked me how many I wanted.

He noticed that I always have to open my car's trunk from the inside because the handle is broken, so he grabbed some bolt cutters (and I don't even want to know what else), and fixed it.

These are small things, to be sure, but none of them would have happened 10 years ago, and all of them have happened within the last month. I'm not sure what's changed, Maybe I've grown. Maybe he's grown. Maybe Santa or Hanukkah Harry gave us both a little push. 

My dad is the grumpiest of Grumpy Gusses, but he's my dad, and I love him. 

Pictured: Future Grumpy Gus

I loved him before, even when I "hated" him, don't get me wrong. But lately he's been more like the man I knew in 1994, and I'm really grateful for that.

So maybe this has nothing to do with Christmas at all, but I did ask Santa for a dad when I was about 6. I think delivered, he's just been tinkering with it for the last 20 years.

Maybe he wasn't ALWAYS grumpy.

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