Thankful for those we call dad

He’s often the man you call on when things go wrong — the occasional flat tire, the overheated engine, the busted water pipe, the snake in the back yard, the unbalanced checkbook, or, if you’re younger, for the embedded splinter, the black eye or the bee sting.

We run to him with all our woes, knowing in our hearts he can fix whatever the problem, with a smile, a warm hug and often a kiss on the cheek.

He’s often the one we look up to as well, watching his example, basking in his strength as we try to mirror his example as we try to set our own.

As children we might have tried to wear his tie or slip tiny feet into far larger shoes, but as we have grown older, we’ve tried to emulate his movements, his smile, his attitude and, indeed, tried to fill those shoes again, still big and still difficult to wear as comfortably as he does.

We want to be like him in every way because he is, without question, a hero in our eyes — our father, our daddy … always our friend.

And that’s just part of what makes fathers so special.

It’s also the way they smile at you when you’ve done something special, or look at your tenderly when they realize you’re having a bad day.

In their quiet, unassuming way, fathers are watchful and caring, often standing in the shadows allowing mothers to do all those things that mothers do best. But dads do their fair share of mothering, too, just in more covert ways that hardly get noticed by anyone except the person receiving the helping hand, the protective glance, the guiding words.

Our fathers are the strong ones — the tough guys who tell us to stand firm, to keep our chin up, to never let anyone take advantage of us.

They are the firm providers who teach us about responsibility, earning our way and learning to be strong on our own. But while they want us to fight our own battles, live our own lives and follow the road they have so diligently paved for us, they will be our staunchest supporters, our quickest defenders and our most steady shoulder when they are needed.

Fathers have baited our fishing hooks, caught our most lopsided curve balls and steadied our wavering bicycles, never once laughing at our attempts.

When we’ve needed them, they’ve been right there; and when we’ve needed room to grow and spread our own wings, they’ve stepped back and given us space.

As children we looked up to them as the person we most wanted to be like when we grew up; as adults we can only hope to have filled one-half the shoes they have worn.

Our hats are off to them all today, fathers who are truly parents and those others who have taken on that role. And our prayers are with each one. They are heroes in our eyes forever, and they are truly one of God’s most special gifts, one we are very thankful for today and every day.