Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day.

When I was little, my dad was the toy fixer, the gymnastics meet video-taper,
the four-wheeler-driver, the spanking-giver (because everyone knows Mom spankings
aren't nearly as painful as Dad spankings).
And then I grew older, and how exactly is a Dad supposed to relate to an almost-teenage girl
(besides making it a point to appear just menacing enough to her boyfriends)?
My Dad related to me through pole vaulting.
The first time I tried pole vaulting was in 7th grade. Just for fun. 
And because my Dad used to be a pole vaulter.

I loved it immediately. And, of course, it didn't hurt that I was good at it.
I pole vaulted my way through junior high track
and my Dad was there to coach every single practice and every single meet.
My freshman year of high school was the same.
He bought me poles, he researched exercises to help me improve,
he drove me to the track to practice on the weekends.
He even got an old pole vaulting pit and had a concrete runway poured
in our front yard so we could practice at home.
Yeah, we had a pole vaulting pit in our front yard.

He coached me all the way to winning a state championship my freshman year of high school.
After that, things got tougher.
I had issues with my shins that kept me from running.
We tried ice baths, hot wraps, taping my legs, physical therapy.
We had some tearful arguments.
And after a disappointing track season my junior year of high school,
I decided I didn't want to pole vault anymore.
But I was scared to tell my Dad, so I wrote him a letter and left it for him
the morning before my first day of senior year.
What did it say? I can't remember all the details,
but it was angsty and stupid and full of things like,
"You put too much pressure on me and it's not fun anymore" and
"You're just trying to relive your high school sports career through me"...
stupid teenage things that seemed so intelligent at the time, but make me cringe to think of now.
We've never talked about that letter, but if I could take it back, I would.
But don't worry, this story has a happy ending.
I pole vaulted my senior season. My shins kept me from participating in many meets,
but it was relaxed. It was fun again.

I think it was the next spring, after I'd gone away to college
and come back to help my Dad officiate one of my brother's track meets,
that I really realized why my Dad spent so much time coaching us.
Why he bought us equipment and devoted his time and pushed us to do our best.
My brother hadn't done well at the meet, and he'd been upset,
and my Dad was talking to me about trying to help him work through his anger
(we're a fiery bunch; Ryan can attest to my temper, too).
Somewhere in that conversation he said,
"You know I just do this so I have the opportunity to spend time with both of you."
Of course. It should have been obvious, but as a teenager, it wasn't really.

My pole vaulting days are long gone (I'd probably impale myself trying it now)
but they're some of the best memories I have from high school.
Since then, my Dad has adopted many other titles:
advice-giver, dog baby-sitter, complaint-hearer.
But I'm really glad he spent 6 years being "coach",
because that time together is something I'll always cherish,
and I hope I get to be that kind of parent some day.


  1. I really love your writing Andrea! Thanks for sharing this, it made me all warm and fuzzy :) It's always nice to be reminded that we need to take the "teenage goggles" off sometimes and look for our parent's true intentions. Happy Fathers day to your amazing dad!!

  2. I absolutely loved this post, it's such a sweet story to share on Father's Day. Doesn't hurt that you're a super talented writer, too! xo

  3. A great post. It's amazing how differently we see our parents as we get older. The pole vaulting pics and vid are amazing!

  4. this is the absolute best father's day post ive read today.
    its perfect.
    thank you sooo much for sharing.

  5. Such a sweet story, he sounds like a great dad!

  6. Love this. I'd impale myself, too, probably. I love all the titles your dad has held. I bet he's proud of each one of them.

  7. This is awesome! I ran track in high school and I was terrible but I loved it. I actually didn't really become "a runner" until after college. The pole vault always intimidated me- that video is crazy!


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