My dad is better. Absolute truth.

I am beyond blessed to be able to have a dad that was raised on a strong sense of family and the importance of eating at the kitchen table; that success meant you had an entire room filled with books and your goal was to beat your dad in chess and not how much wealth you accumulate or social circles you enter;  that puzzles keep your brain sharp; that you can never be over educated; that it's okay to be a wallflower because people are weird anyways; that a smartly-developed conspiracy theory is healthy and even patriotic; that people will always be who they are and you either have to change how you look at them or move on; that the most important thing in religion and relationships is loving people and being able to show them....oh I could go on.....

I'm not being cute when I say that my dad is my hero. I know that people toss that word around annoyingly and use it incorrectly to express admiration and respect, but I sincerely mean it. If I ever become one ounce of the person my dad is, I'll consider that successful, except I did get his eyesight and it's not stellar. Regardless.

Although my dad grew up on one of the most beautiful 105 acres of land in the universe, the Ronau Farm, he still has an aversion to tomatoes after working in the fields for 14 hours picking them so he could pay for his private Catholic education and pay his way through college (that was possible back then!) Growing up when he worked at an IT job, we always gauged his day by how much his hair stuck up when he walked in the door at 5:30. And although he was lucky enough to marry my mom and have us kids, he unfortunately lost a wife way too early and had two kids to take care of, by himself.

That's some tough stuff.

Growing up, my dad and I were constantly at odds. I went through a lot, to say the least, when my mom died, and was pretty much constantly angry from 16-20. My dad was left to deal with my crazy rage, which probably makes him eligible for sainthood. I mean, I deal with angry 4th graders daily, but me constantly angry for 4 years? Oi. But my dad was there, through all of it, the anger, my craziness because of the anger, boys, unhealthy lifestyle choices, etc. etc. etc. I know it's silly to look back and wish you could change things, but I wish that I could take back being angry, all of it, every single ounce of anger and the product of the rage. I was so scared to be sad that I just wanted to be mad. That's generally my knee-jerk response to anything emotional: I just get really mad, and then really sad.

When I finally "figure out what I wanted to do" I think it was a turning point in how I saw my dad. Once I got really focused, stable and healthy, we were able to talk more. And the more we talked the more I realized that a lot of things in my life are motivated by how I'm desperate to be as intelligent and well-read as my dad, or even just successful in his eyes. When I was recently reeling over a comment made that I am "unfocused and unsuccessful," my dad sarcastically offered, "Why, because you have your master's degree, a demanding job you're doing well at and a great husband? Yeah, you're failing." And then he told me I baked my mom's cookies so well, that even she'd be proud. Who needs to be evaluated professionally when your dad thinks you're awesome?

My dad picked me up tonight and took me out to dinner, which we don't get to do much because we're always so busy. We mulled over Greek food for an hour, murmuring about educational policy, the republican primaries and "Obama's social security number is linked to a dead guy from Connecticut" "Really, Dad?" that turn into a heated debate, literary group ideas, "You should read this book, even if it's just the first two chapters," and that had to be the best Tuesday dinner I've had in a really long time.

My dad inspires me, provokes my thinking, gives me hope in his ability to help me see everything bigger, that this isn't the end, I'm just on my way somewhere and although I'm tired and just want everything to be okay and easy again, I'm not ready for it to be okay and easy again. And I'm not sure if I would've come to that without my dad. He's my hero and when I grow up I want to be a very familiar version of him, a feminine version who exponentially improves her mathematic abilities, tends a garden, has wall-to-wall bookshelves with books in them and is able to defeat a 3rd grader in chess. Everything else, really, is just a bonus.