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Guest columnist: Samwise

Happy birthday, Dad

February 9, 2012

Dad, I wrote this for you as a guest column, but it's up to you how you want to use it. It's cool either way. I just wanted you to know that you mean a lot to me, and I hope your birthday is great!

Since today is J.P.'s birthday, I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about the person who sits behind the screen. Some of you may know J.P. in "real life," and some of you may just know him as a voice read on the screen, or heard on the radio. I had the unique experience of knowing him as a father. Hey, I even get to see him as a grand-father every so often when we're in the same state!

I have to give him a lot of credit for what he writes. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics, he is truly passionate about his message, and unlike many talking heads in politics, he does not put on a fake persona to impress people. In fact, I think his opinion is not that popular these days.

Enough about his website though, let's talk about J.P.

As a kid, I remember thinking my dad was weird compared to other dads. He wasn't overly concerned with appearance, he didn't praise each and every thing we did just because we were his kids, he didn't let us win at games to boost our egos, he didn't go around telling people what they wanted to hear, in fact he didn't really do much small talk at all. He never spanked us, or disciplined us too harshly... until our teenage years that is! When we were out of line, he just gave us the "look" and that humbled us enough. That and we knew he had a temper and the two or three times we crossed that line and he totally lost it, were enough to teach us not to take things too far with him.

He also let us do many things that most parents didn't let their kids do, so we knew if he said no to something there was probably a darn good reason. Overall, he was pretty easy-going and chill. Easy-going unless sports are concerned. That's a whole other story.

My dad has always expressed the importance of athletics. It didn't matter that he was a single guy raising two little girls. We were going to play sports, and we were ALWAYS playing sports. My dad figured out when we were young that my sister and I were fast like him. As a parent, when you figure out your kids are good at something, especially something they got from you, it's a good feeling. I always knew my dad was proud of me when I was racing, or running fast on the basketball court.

My dad didn't go easy on us because we were girls either. He knew we could excel in athletics and sacrificed many Saturday mornings bringing my sister, and many of our little friends, to our various sporting events. Often volunteering to coach our teams. I guess the thrill of coaching a bunch of little girls wasn't the ideal way to spend a Saturday morning for most dads! I remember him getting into a heated argument with the athletic director of my little Catholic school over giving the girls gym time equal to the boys teams. He was furious that we weren't being treated fairly, and that made him pretty unpopular with the administration, but it sure made me proud!

It reminds me of the time he brought me to the grocery store and witnessed a man twice his size taking a leak in the parking lot. He didn't hesitate to walk over to the man and rip him a new one, because I was in the car and could have seen something I shouldn't have. I'm not sure that was the brightest move, but it was awfully brave! I believe this is why my sister and I do not tolerate injustice very well. We both were never interested in going along with the flow and "fitting in."

Besides I don't think we could have if we tried. Ha!

If you haven't figured it out already, my dad has never really cared much about what people think of him. While other parents were keeping their kids "safe," he was taking us backpacking along 100 foot cliffs, climbing up rocks at Tahquamenon Falls, going on long bike rides around the city helmets on, and giving my poor grandmother ulcers from worrying about us so much. We even hitch-hiked once after arriving to the finishing point of a hiking trip a day or two early! Some people would call my dad irresponsible or careless, but I couldn't imagine being a kid without being free to explore, learn, and even get hurt every now and then. My dad was good at giving us the tools and then allowing us the freedom to make use of our knowledge and skills. Interestingly, during my school years, nearly all of my friends had experienced broken bones or acquired a serious injury at one time or another. However, my sister and I never had so much as a broken bone, or any serious injuries throughout our lives. There were cuts and scrapes along the way, but we knew how to land on our own feet when we fell and wipe the dust off.

I say these things not because J.P. was perfect, or didn't completely screw up from time to time (just ask him how he dealt with two teenage girls, ha!). Far from it! I say these things because the things he writes to you about, are the things he instilled in me throughout my life. In order to truly thrive, man must have a sense that his destiny, with the help of God alone, is shaped by his own choices and actions. If the creator Himself thought it best to give each man the freedom to choose, what makes people think they can take away the free will of others and place it into their own hands?

I'm glad I was raised by a man who taught me better. Thanks for being a great dad and for going against popular opinion, so that our kids can have the fun and crazy childhood experiences that we had!

BTW, I hope your ego is thoroughly satisfied : ) Happy Birthday to a great dad!!

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

February 9, 2012 - You have no idea how huge my ego is right now. Shoot, after getting your email yesterday I stopped a woman in the grocery store to give her a lecture on parenting!
Seriously, reading this was a mighty fine birthday present, but the way I see things, my daughters turned out wonderful in spite of me not because of me. I had no clue what I was doing.
By the way, climbing that cliff at Tahquamenon is a memory I'll never lose... we topped out at the feet of a group of Japanese tourists standing behind a fence with cameras, and they snapped away like we were unicorns or something. Somewhere in Japan there are lots of pictures of us, and I'd love to know how they're captioned. - J.P., Reno

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