My father taught me how to swim without water wings and how to ride a bike without training wheels.
He taught me how to make sense of Geometry and listened to me practice middle-school science projects until he could recite them himself.
When I was a toddler and couldn’t sleep at night, Dad would scoop me up and walk around the living room rocking me for hours, singing lullabies.
Dad taught me that it’s not about whether you win or lose but whether you put your best foot forward in the game.
He taught me how to study to ace a test, how to formulate an argument so that the least open-minded person in the room would find himself thinking about what I’d said.
My father taught me why it’s important not to save all of your energy in a three-mile track race for the last 200-meter dash.
He taught me to find music I love and dance my heart out like no one’s watching.
Dad taught me not to hold on to anger when people do you wrong, because life’s too short not to sleep well, toss some positive energy their way, and move on with a smile.
He taught me strength.
He taught me commitment.
He taught me persistence.
And, most of all, he taught me that when you get caught up with your heart (Mom and I do that sometimes), don’t forget to check in with your head.
Over the years, Dad and I have watched more horror films together than I can remember. We’ve talked about more homework assignments and test scores than I could count. We’ve been on more amusement park roller coasters than I could list. We’ve made more pro and con lists than you would believe. And we’ve talked through everything from bad friendships to bad boyfriends to dinners that rocked our worlds (yes, he may be the only human who loves delicious food more than I do).
Growing up, he was the dad all of my friends wanted–and not just because he used to pick us up from SAT prep classes with bags of snacks, although that didn’t hurt. He’s been a father figure to friends who have needed one badly, and watching that has reminded me so many times how lucky I am.
I’m a stronger person because of him. I’m a better person because of him. And I thank God every day for the gift of him.
To all the dads out there, you are so very important. Happy Father’s Day.
And to Daddy Bila, thank you. You’re the best man I know.
Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.