I have the best dad on the planet. You might have another candidate in mind for that award. Please allow me to present my dad's qualifications.
My dad is a handsome guy with dark, almost black, curly hair, dark brown eyes and a year-round tan that betrays his Italian heritage. I always think of Dad's hands as being perpetually dirty. He does wash them, but some dirt takes a long time to come out and my dad's hands have had oil repeatedly ground into every groove and swirl. Dad loves ice cream, laughing, telling stories, cars, country life, babies and his wife, but the thing that really sets him apart is his ability to fix just about anything.
I suppose living in a farm community gave him ample opportunity to tinker with things. He worked on tractors, lawn mowers and cars throughout his teen years. When he joined the Navy, it only made sense that he would continue using his mechanical skills. However, he took the opportunity to play with engines that were just a little bigger. During his time in the Navy, Dad worked on the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-7 Corsair, the F-4 Phantom, the A-6 Intruder, the F-14 Tomcat, and the P-3 Orion. Those are the ones Hubby and I can remember, but there are probably more.
Dad enjoyed working with jet engines, but his favorite project is his 1964 Triumph TR4. I don't know when he bought it, but the Triumph has been around as far back as I can remember. I remember riding in the back seat when I was just a little girl and Dad would take it around the block. It was a sweet little ride. Dad wants to get it running again and put in a Ford V-6 engine for more power.
In his free time, Dad used to comb the Trading Post for good fix-up deals and cruise neighborhoods looking for lawnmowers, garden tractors and the like that people put to the curb. He would take these dead machines home, make repairs that were simple for him and sell them. He even had a rather popular "Man's Yard Sale" every once in a while.
Even with the occasional yard sale, Dad once had a really impressive collection of very important stuff that would have thrilled American Pickers. He had air tanks, alternators, axles, batteries, belts, circuit boards, dipsticks, fuses, gaskets, hinges, hoses, knobs, latches, pedals, sensors, sparkplugs, steering wheels, switches, valves, wires, and tools of all kinds. Unfortunately, a fire erupted in one of his garages and Dad had to call for help. I imagine seeing the NASA fire department respond to a garage fire at my dad's house made the neighbors a little nervous. He does live right outside of Langley Air Force base, but perhaps their concern was valid given the gasoline, paint thinner, oil, fuel, lubricant and other flammable materials he had stashed away in there. That was one hot fire. Thankfully not a soul was singed, but most of his best goodies were lost.
Dad's Mr. Fix-It abilities are not limited to engine repairs. He has quite the green thumb. Years ago he worked at a nursery. He would pick through the throw-away pile for plants he liked and bring them home. In a short time those plants would flourish under Dad's care.
Even babies are subject to Dad's skills. The first time Dad met Polar Bear, the little guy was fussy. Dad picked him up and fixed that problem. Within five minutes, Polar Bear filled his diaper and fell asleep. I can only remember one or two times that my dad couldn't get a baby to fall asleep in his arms.
There is nothing this man can't fix, build, or make better and the most impressive repair Dad ever performed was on our relationship. My parents' divorce was rough and I was an angry teenager stuck in the middle. Things got nasty and I didn't talk to my dad for about 5 years.
While I was pregnant with Polar Bear, Dad asked my uncle to forward a letter to me. In that letter, he did the one thing I never expected him to do. He apologized for everything that had gone wrong in our relationship and asked for another chance. I gave him that chance. You are getting the short sweet version, but it wasn't a quick or easy fix. We had to rebuild entirely. Dad took a risk on something that had been left on the curb and he fixed it up. I think he would agree with me that the rebuild was well worth the effort.
For the past four years, Dad has been fighting Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). Because leukemia is cancer that grows in the bone marrow, the only cure is to eradicate and replace the bone marrow. Dad isn't an easy match so none of his family or the registered bone marrow donors would work for him. Thankfully, there is a procedure that uses babies' cord blood to replace the bone marrow. Dad went through such a procedure two years ago. Unfortunately, one of the cords came from a child who had Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which turns into AML. Doctors do check the cords, but they cannot check for everything. For my father to receive a cord blood transplant that gave him a new form of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia is a one-in-a-million thing. Nobody saw this coming. It still feels surreal. This spring the MDS finally turned into leukemia. It was quickly put into remission and Dad was ready for the transplant when they realized he had fungal pneumonia. After weeks of treatment, Dad had half of one lung removed to get rid of the infection. We hoped he would have time to recover fully before the chemo had to start again, but last week we found out that the leukemia has already returned.
Now we take a deep breath and start again. Dad will have chemo to get the leukemia into remission. Then he will need to be strong enough to go through the harsher chemo to totally eradicate his bone marrow. They already have two cord bloods ready and waiting for him.
This leukemia is one thing my dad can't fix, but it is something he can fight. He has chosen to keep on fighting and my family will support this fight as much as we can. We are abundantly grateful for those friends who have encouraged our family through prayers, notes and practical things like watching my children so I can go and be with my dad. Every moment I can spend with him is a gift.
Because Dad hauled our relationship off the curb, we have had 12 years to really get to know each other. Because of Dad's leukemia, we have had conversations that have cleared out any remaining hurt or concern. Not everybody can say that their relationship with their dad is solid, but then, not everybody has a dad who can repair just about anything from jet engines to relationships. He really is the best dad on the planet.
(You can help by registering to be a bone marrow donor at www.bethematch.org. No needles are involved in registering; a simple cheek swab reveals all that needs to be known. You may very well save the life of someone who is dying of leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other diseases.)