Today is my dad’s birthday and it wouldn’t be right to not give him proper tribute. Over the years, I’ve discovered that he and I have a lot more in common than I realized when I was a teenager. We have the same sense of humor, the same moral compass, the same dedication, and the same taste in music.
When I was a senior in high school, I came home one day and told my dad I had decided to apply for a North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholarship. The application was due the next day and I had tossed it around a lot before deciding to follow through with applying. My dad, being a teacher, and the son of a teacher, sat me down and went through all the reasons why he didn’t want me to follow in his footsteps. He told me that not every student would love United States History as much as I did. He told me I’d go into it knowing I changed the world, but that if I changed one student’s life a school year, then I had done a great job. He told me that it wouldn’t pay well, and he was concerned about my expensive taste (hah). And he told me that if I decided to follow through with it anyway, then I better be the best damn teacher those kids ever had.
I took that as a personal obligation not only to my students and their future, but also to him. In our wedding toast, he told that story and challenged DG and me to be good spouses to each other as well. It was such a profound moment in my life when he told me to be the best, and I loved that he incorporated that into our toast.
Last year, my dad was recognized by one of his former baseball players, who followed in his foot steps of being a high school teacher and coach, turned principal. My dad retired as a school administrator, but decided to come out of retirement and went back into teaching. His school needed a baseball coach, so he volunteered and this former student/player of his was the umpire at his game. He tagged me and another former player in this Facebook post about how he had deja vu from a previous time when he was a player listening to my dad coach. I made a couple of jokes, and so did the other former player, but the outpouring of stories from his former players had me in tears. These former players talked about the memories they had from a practice or a game, or a funny story from him. I have never been more proud of him than I was reading those messages. My dad not only challenged me to be the best, but truly anyone he worked with whether in the classroom, on the field, or in a school building.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Thanks for being such a great role model, for supporting me even when I didn’t deserve it, for knowing that the devil actually beat Johnny in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” for teaching me the lyrics to David Allen Coe, and for quoting Captain Ron when I need a good laugh. You still da man, Big Dave.
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