10 Things my Father Taught Me.

Now, I know what you guys are all thinking…you’ve seen so much of my Dad through this blog and my less-than-flattering Tweets (Dad, I’m sorry.  From now on I’ll paint you as Gandhi.  Happy?).

I got my smile, hair color, punctuality, laugh, and dimples from my Mom.  I got my squat legs, hammer fingers, lazy Sunday mornings, introversion, love of King Arthur, pig-headed stubbornness, delegatory personality, and sweet tooth from Dad.

We both love telling people what to do.  We both love to laugh.  We’re both inherently shy but give us a room full of friends and a topic we can expound upon and it takes a strong person to rip us away from the stage.  Give us an opinion and we’ll fight to the death for it.  Give us a political figure to support and we’re maniacal (ugh, Weiner, WHY?!).

When I was 10 years old I appeared in a Variety show at Buckley Elementary as Sandy in a skit devoted to the movie Grease (rest in peace, Kenickie).  I was terrified…contrary to public opinion, I have insane stage fright.  I remember waiting in the wings to go on and the curtain standing in front of me like a demon ready to welcome me to the gates of hell.  All of a sudden, in the hushed auditorium, I heard “Get ’em, Ally!” yelled from the front row.  It was so loud, it’s audible on the videotape.

This isn’t even really a list of things he taught me.  It’s more a collection of memories, wrapped in a bigger lesson.

1. No matter what happens in life or how much you succeed or how hard you fall, you are still a worthy and valued person and your life means something. The night of my first (and only) semi-professional gig in NYC, Dad called me just before I went onstage.  “Two things can happen tonight.  Either you shit the bed and you wake up tomorrow and you’ve still got a family and friends who love you, or it all works out and you are amazing tonight.  Either way, we’re still going to love you.”  That has stuck with me ever since.
2.  Stop talking about it and just do it.  – No excuses.  Ever.
3. Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen: The Holy Triumvirate.  Every single time we had to travel to another state for my sister’s AAU weekends, Dad would pop in Graceland, River of Dreams, or Born In The USA, and scream the lyrics down the highway.  The one he played the most was Billy but I really found myself gravitating towards Paul.  He told me once, as “Call Me Al” blared from our Windstar CD player, “I always think of you when I hear this!” Ten years later, when my high school a cappella group picked it as one of their songs, I got to sing it for him.
4. It’s okay to ask for help if you need it.  When I was home from NYC on that weekend when I decided I didn’t want to live in NYC anymore, Dad is the one who pulled my true feelings out of me, then held my hand as I worked through the following year of triumphs and heartbreak.
5. Your parents are you biggest cheerleaders.  When he left me that first night in NYC, he grabbed me in a giant hug and practically squealed “I am so happy for you!” When I was in a horrible show, he’d congratulate me on doing a great job (then proceed to tell me that the rest of the show sucked).  When he hugged my brother-in-law on the day of Jenna’s wedding, he said “Take care of her” loud enough so the microphone caught it.  When you think you want to be an actress, he tries to introduce you to everyone he knows that can make you successful.  When you want to meet/marry/stalk Bradley Cooper, he says he can make it happen and to just be patient.  (I’m still waiting.)
6. Walk it off.  Remember when Dad smacked me in the leg with a softball? He told me to walk it off.  When in doubt, walk it off.
7. SPF 5 is the way to go for a base tan.  I know, I know, that’s awful.  But that’s Dad.  His ideal skin tone is “charred”.
8. Take the steak off the grill before it’s totally set.  It will cook after a little more.  If, by some chance, you forget this rule, like my Dad did the other night, DO NOT bitch about it for the entirety of dinner even when your entire family is going “Dad, the steaks are fine.  Shut up.”
9. Jokes are awesome but always know when to pull back if you’ve gone too far.  There have been a couple of times where Dad’s prodding (like when he announced to an entire restaurant that I eat ‘the weirdest crap’ or when he makes fun of my clothes) have gone a bit too close to the bone.  He always apologizes profusely for it, but then follows it up with the fact that the reason he pushes my buttons harder than Mike or Jenna is because he knows I can give it right back.  Which I do.  In spades.
10.  Follow your dreams, even if they aren’t what people expect.  When I told my brother I was quitting sports to focus on theatre, he said, aghast, “Dad is going to murder you!” Which led to me putting off telling Dad for about two months, until my play practically was opening.  When I finally sucked it up and told him, his response was akin to “Cool!” A few years later, when I got interviewed for a local paper, Dad said “I was surprised she hadn’t quit sooner.” When I told Dad I wanted to be a writer, he took me by the hand and said “I’m glad you finally see it.” You would think he could’ve let me know! But according to Dad, “I wanted you to figure it out for yourself.”

And that’s the beauty of my father.  He lets me figure it out.  Then, when I decide, he’s there with a hand, a smile, and a lot of love.

I couldn’t ask for a better father, that I now can call a friend.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

taken at the final four salute dinner in indianapolis in april.  the boa was on a table.  i still have it.

Oh, and an additional thing my father taught me?

Ice cream is always best with a fork.

ally

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