It’s been quite some time since I’ve spent an actual Father’s Day with my dad. Not because I wouldn’t like to, but because the miles that separate us have been significant since I moved away from home to go to college, and logistics always trump wishes.

What’s worse, though, is that it’s been far too long since I’ve really celebrated my dad for the influence he’s been in my life. Sure, I try to remember to send cards (but sometimes even fail in that respect). But I never know quite what to send as a gift; he’s not much of a gadget guy, doesn’t have hobbies besides work and I sure as heck can’t afford a new tractor or a prize bull.

I hope he knows what he means to me. I wouldn’t blame him for forgetting sometimes; far too often I fall into the habit of talking about what I don’t have, or what wasn’t good about my childhood instead of focusing on the good.

People, HE was the good.

I didn’t really know him all that well when he and my mom divorced. I was about 12, I think. Middle school. He’d spent that many years working countless jobs, trying to take care of three little girls and a wife who spent more than five husbands could probably make. He stayed when she strayed, devoted in the only way he knew how to be; as a provider, a disciplinarian and the stable part of an otherwise unstable home.

Thirty some years later now, I know him better. I know him as the one I can always rely on to be there, no matter what. The one who walks his talk, blows his top, says I’m sorry and stands his ground. He’s still a soft place to land, a swift kick in the ass, a shoulder to lean on and a voice of reason even when reason is hard to hear.

He’s not perfect, but he’s real. He’s an example of hard work, perseverance and faith. I love him for being genuine even when what he has to say isn’t popular, for sometimes being silly and for being not just a father but a dad, a mom and a friend to me no matter how much of a pain in the ass I’ve been over the years.

He’s a dad that doesn’t fit into many of the standard Hallmark sentiments, because he’s not sappy and he doesn’t say what he doesn’t mean; I hope I’ve inherited a bit of that from him (not the non-sappy part, obviously). If Hallmark let me design my very own card for my one of a kind dad, it would say something like this:

Stop looking to see how much this card cost, Futz; it’s not the digits on the back that matter.

If we’re keeping track of numbers, let’s count how many times you’ve come to my rescue, soothed my fears, listened to my whines and bolstered my confidence. I’d rather count the conversations that were ‘just because’ but made my day or the lessons you taught without saying a word.

I know better than to buy you a tie or a trendy set of bar glasses, but I wish there was something I could give you that screams ‘you did good, dad. I am proud to be your daughter, and I am a better woman, and a better mother, because of you. Thank you.