Dear Lily June,
Your dad, Ryan, claims that in his youth, he was a bit of a bully. He was the kind of big guy that dudes never picked fights with, or, when they did, they never won. Given his size and relative strength, I reckon they practically never got up.
For what it’s worth, Lily, I have never met that man.
Of the illimitable reasons I love your father, add to your mental image of him this anecdote: Once upon a time, your dad, a burly dude with a raging birds’ nest beard and a barrel chest, was carrying a laundry basket containing his cottons and my delicates back to our car from the Soap N Suds, a laundromat in Tuscaloosa.
His hands being otherwise occupied, a stranger snuck up on him and attempted to raid his pockets, dropping your dad’s cell phone in the shuffle and snapping it like a twig. Your dad, in a state of shock, dropped the laundry basket, struggled with, then finally slugged the guy.
(In my mind’s eye, I see a cartoon cloud of socks flying up around the fisticuffs, spinning around the shuffle as if they were back in the dryer, tumbling. The second your dad’s fist makes contact with the attempted mugger’s face, all laundered items immediately drop.)
When he got home, he was in a state, Lily. I sat there trying to console him about what happened, thinking he was upset that he had nearly been the victim of a crime. He looked into my eyes in near tears and said, “I hit him, Alyssa. I hit him. And he was so young.”
Your dad, Lily, was not upset that he had been attacked, but that he had exercised force, almost instinctively, back. He was worried about the hurt his near-mugger might have suffered at his fist. He had empathy for someone whom he’d never met, who, in fact, had tried to take something from him. Whatever other lessons you learn from me and these letters, I hope you learn the following lessons from your father, too:
- Sometimes, others need what you have more than you.
- Sometimes, the hurts you deal out, even in self-defense, end up hurting you.
- Sometimes, your dad can be a real badass. Don’t even try to mess with that dude.
- By Unknown – http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085187/1904-01-29/ed-1/seq-3/ (The Tacoma Times), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37386133