This feels a bit like writing a grown up version of the five sentence essays I had to write in kindergarten, about my hero. The truth is, though, that it’s roughly the same thing I would have written for Mrs. Snellgrove at Girard Elementary School in 1992. Because it’s still about my dad. My father was my hero when I was six, and the twenty years since then haven’t changed anything. My father has spent every day of my life teaching, correcting, and supporting me, showing me what a man should be, and laughing with me. I think every day about how unbelievably blessed I am to have my dad, and my heart breaks for people who have been robbed of that.
When I was two, my parents divorced, and we moved in with my grandmother. The way I understand it, dad was broke. Beyond broke. And Christmas was coming, not long after we moved back to Dothan. My father has always been a musician, playing drums and guitar in various bands in his 20’s, and has always had instruments as long as I can remember. That Christmas, my dad loaded up all of his drums and guitars and amps, and took a ride.
To a pawn shop.
Where he sold the things that he loved, to buy his children Christmas presents.
I could stop writing there. Because that alone tells you everything you could ever need to know about what kind of man my father is. But my dad didn’t stop there, so neither will I. Over the next 20+ years my dad worked (and continues to work) jobs that gave him chronic stress headaches, and incessant tension-related neck and back pain, to keep the lights on, food in our stomachs, send us to camps and on trips, and buy us more Christmas presents. But it hasn’t been just his traditional role as a provider that continues to make me proud to call my dad my role model and my hero. The way that he models his respect, and affection for, and his patience with my step-mother has been the guidepost for the way I treat women in my own life. When I went on my first real date in high school, he helped me wash and clean my car, made sure I had enough money to pay, and made double sure that I knew to open her door and walk on the curb-side of the street.
When I played football in high school, I was at best second string. But Tim Lee was always in the stands. Even for away games, in cold Tennessee November, he drove sometimes over an hour to sit and freeze on the off chance that I might see the field. Dad did the same when my brother and sister were in the band, years before I was there. He and mom never missed a game or performance. And when I moved to Georgia, and six months later resigned and moved home, dad was there with a U-Haul, paying no mind to the 3.5 hour drive or the $200 in gas, each way.
My father’s most substantial contribution (far above the emotional support he has given me) to my life has been to do his best to make me a man who is wholly and utterly in love with Jesus. And he has done that by example, by being that man himself.
I could go on, but I believe the point has been made, and taken.
My dad is my hero. He was my hero when I wrote nearly this same thing when I was six years old in Alabama. And he remains my hero, my best friend, and my biggest fan.
Ryan Lee is a contributor to The Southern C. He is an Alabama native living in Tennessee where he blogs about the issues facing men and the evolution of Southern culture on A Gentleman’s Journal.