Happy Birthday, Dad

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If you’ve met him, then you know that my dad, Frank Zane, is the funniest guy on the planet. But that’s not all…

In addition to being hilarious, he’s also raw, honest and smart. He’s a natural storyteller. A hard worker. He’s never boring. Fun to be around. The life of the party. He’s strong yet sensitive. A family man. He loves with his whole heart. He can teach you a thing or two about everything. But you’d better listen carefully because when he gets to talking, he talks fast and his stories tend to go on for a while and they go off in many directions.

He reminds me of me. Or maybe I remind me of him?

When it comes to my dad, you either love being around him or you simply can’t stand him. I’ve found that if the latter describes you, then you’re probably pretty uptight because I swear he can make anyone laugh. But, at times, you have to be willing and able to laugh at yourself in order to get the joke. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you and my dad will probably not get along.

Sure there’s no denying that he’s funny, but my dad also has a very serious side. He cares deeply. He loves intensely. He wants you to listen and get to know him and he needs to make you smile. He will hold your hand when you’re sick and never leave your side when you’re struggling or in pain. If you want to talk politics, take a stroll through a museum, if your GPS breaks down or you need a good punch line, he’s the guy to call.

He’s an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum disguised as a dirty joke.

But if you think you have him all figured out, you don’t. Just when you think he’ll say or do one thing, guess again. He will shock and surprise you. He tells the best stories and some of the worst jokes (most of which I can’t repeat here). He drives slower than anyone I know and, yet, he always arrives first. All these years and I still haven’t been able to figure out that last part.

There are a million stories I could tell about my dad to convey who he is and how important he is to me. This one comes to mind:

When I was in high school, I started taking flying lessons. I’d wanted to learn to fly planes ever since I was a child when my dad would take me and my brother to Philly Int’l Airport to watch the planes take off and land. It was cheap and effective entertainment. Because I loved the thought of flying so much, before I was even old enough to get my driver’s permit, my dad pushed me to take flying lessons (he also taught me to drive but that’s another story).

One day, while learning emergency procedures of all things, the small single engine Tomahawk I was piloting suddenly began to fall apart. My instructor and I were flying at about 2000 feet and he had just asked me if I spotted a suitable place to land in the event of an emergency when some wind got under the engine cover causing it to come unhinged. It tore off and flew over the plane, shattering the windshield. We were forced to land in a blueberry field in Hammonton, NJ. For the record, that wasn’t the spot I’d picked.

When my dad came to pick me up that day, the representative from the FAA said, “Your daughter’s very lucky because had that piece come loose, she would have been decapitated.” Lovely. Apparently he was pointing to a small piece of windshield that was still intact. A two inch piece of fiberglass (and my instructor’s quick thinking) saved my life.

My dad turned to me and said, “Don’t you dare tell your mother.” Then, the next day, when I was considering giving up my aviation aspirations, he gave me his version of the classic “when you fall off your bike” pep talk and urged me to get back up in the air ASAP and keep on trying.

I get my stubborn streak from my dad. I guess you could blame him for my temper and lack of patience, too. But you have to take the bad with the good, right? Well, he also taught me a lot of very important things.

He taught me that hard work and commitment pay off. He taught me to be fearless even when I’m scared to death. He is the reason I laugh at funerals and say the most inappropriate things every chance I get. He taught me how to be strong and sensitive at the same time, to stand up for myself and the people I love and to fight for what is right–even when everyone else says it’s wrong. Because of him I believe that life is an adventure. And that no one is the boss of me but me! He taught me that I am in complete control of my life and if I fuck it up, well that’s OK because I can always get back up, brush myself off and start over. He taught me to reach for the sky and never stop reaching.

And, perhaps most importantly, he taught me that it’s OK to laugh at myself. And it’s a good thing because these days, I find myself doing that a lot.

I love my dad. He’s the greatest, sweetest, craziest man I know.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

10 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Dad

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