15 Dad Stories to Celebrate Father's Day
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because dads are good sh*t.
By OZY Editors
Dads. They lead by example and impart wisdom on how to get through life the best way they know how. They make us laugh, they make us proud. Fathers give us comfort when we’re down or scared, and sometimes they give us gifts when we least expect it. Most of all, they give us memories — heartwarming and hilarious — that stick in our hearts, even if they are no longer with us.
For Father’s Day, we’re sharing personal stories about dads from members of the OZY family — some who read OZY and some who work at OZY.
My dad, Joe, has come a long way. He grew up poor in rural Ecuador. His abusive father was mostly absent, so as the eldest of three kids, my dad helped his mother take care of the family. After marrying my mom and starting a family, he finished medical school and opened his own practice in his 30s. In 2000, my parents moved to the U.S. to provide a better future for my sister and me. My dad worked as a salesman, then as an instructor at a vocational school, where he also studied and passed the exams to get his U.S. medical license. After completing a residency program in pediatrics for the second time, at the age of 56, he is about to start his last year as a neonatology fellow at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Yet there is even more that makes my dad extraordinary. He was able to achieve all this while “coming out” and rebuilding his life as a gay man. He is a fighter, and his motivation is on par with his humor, generosity, confidence and hilarious personality. Recently, I took a picture of him wearing his scrubs and matching sneakers. When he saw it, he exclaimed, “Oh, my God! Send it to me, I look awesome!” Yes, Dad, you are awesome.
During summer break my dad and I would drive downtown together each workday morning. One day when we were about three blocks from my office building, he simply said, “Always look at the world with new eyes.” First I looked at him, then I looked up at the tall buildings surrounding me, and then I came to a realization that I had passed these places hundreds of times without truly seeing them. One moment they were mundane, the next they were something newly discovered. A minute later, I kissed my dad’s cheek, said goodbye and never saw the world the same way again.
My dad was an outdoorsman, pure and simple. He once said he felt closer to God when he was in the woods in the mountains than anywhere else. He was a capable fly-fisherman, a crack shot with a rifle, and he taught me the woodcraft that I know. He weighed 150 pounds and could pick up a 100-pound bag of chicken feed, put it on one shoulder, put another on the other shoulder and carry them a hundred yards to the feed house (I was expected to manage a third one). He worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps and took correspondence courses to become a civil engineer. He helped build the big canals in Florida and the road west out of Denver in the mountains. His advice was simple: Finish what you start. If you work for someone else, give them a full day’s work for a day’s pay. If you don’t like the work, give fair notice and move on instead of giving trouble or a poor performance. His love of books rubbed off on me. He had a large easy chair and would put my brother on one side and me on the other and read to us. He said every book has at least a page of good information or ideas. He had a paperback library with over a thousand books and classic hardcover editions of White Fang, Rolf in the Woods, The Young Savages and the Bible. I miss him.
About 10 years ago, my brother and I found work nights during Christmas break with a buddy who had practically lived at our house when we were in high school. Johnny Johnny set us up with a very small factory that was trying to fill a large order for wooden pallets before the end of the year. Even though it was a ragtag operation, discipline was severe according to a strict point system. If you were a second late, you got a point. Texting was another source of points. I got a point for going to the doctor for strep throat. My dad hates all of this. He missed us being away at school. It was very cold the night of December 23. We were looking forward to being away from the plant for the next two days. Then I heard my name over the intercom. I was filled with dread. I really needed to work the next two weeks and I had been texting again. When the office door opened, I saw my dad chatting the supervisor up and holding a small box full of Mickey D bags. Two McRibs apiece and he didn’t forget Johnny Johnny either. It may have been the best holiday meal I have ever had.
My dad started off his engineering career with NASA before working for Texas Instruments until retirement. A few years after he retired, I remember vividly a walk we took together around White Rock Lake in Dallas. He said, “You know, I spent so many years concentrating on tangible, material, concrete things. I think it’s time to explore spiritual things.” Fast-forward to a family board-game night. We each had to guess which answer Dad picked to answer the following question about himself: “Which of the following cartoon characters are you most like?” None of us guessed that he would select Dora the Explorer. Although Dad has never seen the show, he assures us that he is always an explorer and encourages us to explore. Keep exploring, Dad!
My dad became quite sick when I was very young, and he has been on oxygen 24/7 for as long as I can remember. He went from being this active, fun-loving mountain man, helping friends fix their roofs and skiing every chance he got, to needing to turn up the level on his oxygen machine in order to stand long enough to do the dishes. He also helped coach my Little League baseball teams, but he was more there mentally — for advice and tips — rather than physically … it was all too much. When I was 24 everything changed: My dad got the call to come in for a lung transplant. Two months later I got to watch my dad walk half a mile, without oxygen, as fast as he could. It literally brought tears to my eyes — still does, just writing this. My dad is my hero. He made many sacrifices to try to be “normal” and worked hard to stay as healthy as he could so he could participate in my life as much as possible. He taught me that you can give so much back even when you don’t have much for yourself. I am beyond grateful for this second chance with my father, and for the second chance he has as a grandfather. He took lemons and made lemonade, and then he shared that lemonade with others. I’d like to think this is lemonade karma.
Tania Straatsma, Office Manager
My father could beat any of you in a debate. You’ve never met a man more determined, more passionate and more driven than David Klein. Born in Connecticut, my sports fanatic, die-hard Patriots fan, cigar-smoking, tell-it-like-it-is father is the most genuine and loving man. Don’t let his tattoo exterior fool you; he is a businessman to the core, loves with all of his heart and can appreciate a good romantic comedy. He has the work ethic of a million men combined. He started his own company from scratch and built it into the successful business it is today. When he’s not working, you can catch him riding motorcycles, shooting guns or talking about the great country of the USA. My father has always been the best ear while sharing his wisdom on life and love. I’m lucky to have such a strong, caring, smart, inspiring man to look up to. I love him very much and couldn’t be prouder to be his daughter. And after all, I have him to thank for all of my incredible athletic genes.
Mark Madeo, Photography Director
My father grew up in sun-drenched San Diego, which was idyllic for surfing and parties but far less than paradise for race relations. Luckily, his passion for music would help him transcend … nobody cares what side you’re on when you’re really good at playing rock ’n’ roll, and he was in the Ramblers, a band he started with Frank Zappa. My dad has always had the enviable quality of knowing what he will do for the rest of his life: music. His religious daily guitar practice of scales and standards, from classical to flamenco to jazz, has left me permanently marked with sound. I can’t hear Asturias without thinking of him. But there is one memory that sums up the man he is today, and the man I strive to be: He was sent to the grocery store one day with a long and detailed list of essentials, while my mom was on Little Mark duty (I was probably 7). Times were extremely lean for a jazz musician and graphic artist living in San Francisco — sometimes even food-stamps lean. But Dad returned with nothing. He had met a homeless man on the way back who asked for something to eat, and my father gave him everything — the entire shopping cart fully laden with our groceries. He said at the time, “It’s what Jesus would do,” but I don’t buy it. He would have done it anyway, with or without Scripture. Such has been his generosity toward me, his loving wife of 50-some years, my brother, his students and quite often anyone else who asks for anything, especially music.
Amberly Alene Ellis, Video Intern
My most frequent childhood memory is that of my father with a camera in hand, recording every important moment and adventure of my life. Ever present and encouraging, my father’s sense of fearlessness and desire for adventure have inspired my brother and me to push every boundary that has ever stood in front of us. His stories of surviving in the wild against every obstacle imaginable — from being on assignment photographing poisonous snakes in the Amazon to sleeping at the top of a tree to escape the black bear that prowled at the trunk below him — taught us that anything is possible. At 20, my dad gave me the gift of my first professional camera, and it changed my life. I am thankful to this daring man who overcame so many challenges in his life to see that his daughter could live a life under a sky of endless opportunities, and, of course, endless adventure.
Anne Muscarella, Director of Communications
At 6:54 a.m.: “FEET ON THE FLOOR!” my dad would say, bursting into my bedroom for the third time, ripping the covers off and pulling me by my feet to the bottom of the mattress and placing my toes onto the cold wood floor. He took joy in this weekday morning ritual, and secretly, I did too. I will always cherish memories like this, the seemingly unremarkable and yet unforgettable ways he was there for me. He was my toughest editor — sitting up late nights at the kitchen table helping me with a writing assignment, saying to me over and over, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say” — a mantra I carry with me to this day. He was my biggest cheerleader, shouting from the sidelines at every soccer match like it was the Super Bowl, and going through the play-by-play on the car ride home. What made the most significant impression on me, and what I carry with me most proudly, is the way he cared for others. He was always there to lend a helping hand, treating everyone as an equal and worthy of unconditional love. His smile lit up a room, his laughter lightened the mood and the world was a better place when he was here.
Kevin C. O’Dowd, Video Producer
I didn’t grow up in a household talking about college campuses, frats or 25-year reunions. My dad didn’t go to college, and had no concept of higher education — therefore neither did I, nor my brother or sister. But my parents raised three kids with three bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. My dad has always had a job and is as successful as any man who went to college. He didn’t start his own company or strike it rich in the financial sector. He started working as a telephone repairman, leaving behind three young babies at home with our mom while he fixed broken cables. After climbing poles in the middle of nowhere, he finally made it inside as a manager. And from there he kept climbing the corporate ladder. What my dad lacked in formal education he made up with hustle, tenacity and people skills. If you meet my dad, you’ll think he is the nicest guy in the world. To be honest, I am not sure how he raised three kids with my mom. He just knew if he taught us to be good ethical people — like him — we would turn out well. And we have, thanks to him and his good heart.
David Dunbar, Fast Forward Editor
My father, Lloyd Dunbar, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame — the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, that is. He was inducted for his decades-long volunteer service to amateur baseball in the province, but when my brother and I were batboy age, watching him play for the Saskatoon Freightways in a regional senior league, we figured he was just a few swings away from the big leagues. After he hung up the cleats, he devoted himself to coaching my brother and me and, later, our little sister’s softball team. Sometimes it’s tough to be the coach’s son (or daughter), but far from being resented, we were the envy of the neighborhood kids. On weekends when other fathers were nursing a beer and watching the Game of the Week, our dad was pitching batting practice, arguing a close call with umpire Ace Corbin or flashing signals from the coach’s box to his baffled batters at the plate. We nodded knowingly at the tip of the hat or the brush of the biceps and dug in, determined to earn the respect of a player who, after all, had been just a few swings away from the big leagues.
Dominique Hessert, Video Intern
My dad (Pop) often traveled for his job, working harder than anyone I have ever known so that my siblings and I could have the opportunities he never had. When he was home, I’d end the day cuddling up next to him, watching The Andy Griffith Show on TV Land or reading the short stories of James Herriot. Nine times out of 10, I’d persuade him to let me stay up past my bedtime. Herriot’s tales inspired what turned into a long-lasting desire to be a veterinarian. I’d daydream scenarios with Pop about the clinic we would run together when I grew up. It was never a question that he’d be my best friend forever. Eventually I outgrew my veterinarian phase, but whatever came next, Pop supported me in every way he knew possible. “Do what you love and it will all work out,” he’d always tell me. He will always be my biggest supporter, my Little League coach, my role model and my best friend.
Steven Lozic, Sales Director
This Father’s Day, as I enter fatherhood for the first time, I reflect on what my own father bestowed upon me — and the bar has been set pretty damn high! I think it’s natural for a boy to see his own father as the best damn dad in the world, but only now do I understand the specific qualities. A devoted sense of family. Patience, even in the most impossible situations. Hard work and dedication to provide the best for his family. Sacrifice. Making it out to every excruciatingly boring Little League game (even when I sat on the bench). Appreciating every second of family time even when he disagreed with the movie-night pick … then laughing HYSTERICALLY throughout Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Doing it all without needing a single thank-you. This December, when I meet my child for the first time, I have a feeling that I’ll finally realize the full extent of why my father was able to do all of this for me. Hopefully I can show my eternal gratefulness by committing everything I have to give to my family and to spread the innate and unconditional love that is being a Lozic.
Barbara Fletcher, Good Sh*t Editor
My dad died when I was in my early 30s, but not before imparting three important life hacks that stick with me today. 1. Be whimsical, and don’t apologize for it. This can be everything from building crazy shit just to see what happens to experiencing something just because you can. 2. Take good care of people. Whether it’s your family, friends or that stranger who needs a hand, give them one. (And then maybe write them a slightly naughty limerick to make them laugh.) 3. Love deeply, love unconditionally. If someone needs to be told off, that’s OK too. But still love them. I miss my lovely, big-hearted, badass dad every day.
- OZY Editors, OZY Author Contact OZY Editors