They say the first real relationship you ever have is with you Dad. That’s certainly true for me. As the youngest of four siblings, I seem to have had the closest relationship with our father. Perhaps it’s because I’m the only one he named (he wanted a little girl he could call Andy). Perhaps it’s because I most resemble him and his mother. Perhaps because he saw the fighter in me. Or perhaps, my elder siblings wore him down, leaving a gentler kind of Dad. Whatever the case, I’m happy for it all.
Most of my earliest memories involve my Dad. My first time riding my bicycle without training wheels, sitting in his lap, standing on his feet so he could teach me to dance (I always loved dancing with him), even lecturing me when I’d done something stupid. They are vivid memories; all of them.
Dad was not the super-involved kind of father we see today. He was a father of the 50s and 60s. Patriarchal, the provider, the disciplinarian, but there was always love behind everything he did. He wanted the best for us and did the best he knew how.
He instilled a love of learning that remains with me today. College was not an option in our family. It was a requirement. Education was the route to a good future. Another vivid memory is sitting down to dinner as a family – something we were expected to do daily – and Dad correcting our grammar – constantly. We hated it at the time, but as an adult, I’m ever so grateful for the love of, and gift for, our language. It’s been a blessing.
I’m a fighter, have been all my life. I was born blind in one eye, but was 7 years old before anyone knew. However, it didn’t stop me from taking ballet or tennis lessons – neither of which I was any good at, but I tried. At 14, I was required to have a spinal fusion that required me to be in a body cast for 6 months in a hospital, followed by a body brace for a year in school. Again, it was simply what happened, and I soldiered on. There were many such setbacks in my life, but I never asked “Why me?” or felt sorry for myself. It was just what was. I don’t know if this is a gift from my Dad or not. It’s more likely a trait from my mother, but it’s what has allowed me to persevere, to grow, to succeed. And that, my Dad would take delight in! He was so proud of the business acumen I showed, even early in my career.
Dad passed away nearly 6 years ago, before my journey back to Seattle and entrepreneurship even entered my mind. My Mom said today how sorry she is that he’s not around to see my success. He would be brimming over with pride and joy. We share the same smile, the “Charlie Cole smile” as we call it in the family. And I can just see him now, beaming at me. While I might owe my fight to my mother, I know I owe my intellect, my love of language (English and French), my business sense, and my looks to a man who was always an example of how to be a gentleman, to provide for your family, and to be a rock.
On this Father’s Day weekend, I pay homage to my Dad, and all the Dads out there, doing the best they can with what they have. And from this Daddy’s little girl, thank you.