"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
~Sir Winston Churchill
We all (hopefully) have a person in our lives who helps us strive to be better people, loves us unconditionally, and understands us more than anyone else. Mine was Tom Killian, my dad.
Dad was actually my step-father, but he grew to be so much more than that. This picture of us was taken near the beginning of our relationship-- when we were both miserable. Those of you who know me well will notice that I do not have my usual toothy smile in this photo. It was intentional.
You see, he became my step-dad when I was 13. My real father died when I was 6, and by this time I had no need for someone else to try to step into that role-- especially not a man who was 50 years older than I was. I spent the better part of 2 years trying and succeeding to make our lives together as difficult as possible. He wanted me to call him "Dad," and I refused. Out of respect for his age, he required me to call him "Mr. Killian." I spent so much time trying to convince him that I didn't need or want him, but he just wouldn't stop convincing me how much I truly did need and want him. He was like that-- he always knew what was best for me. I remember I told him once that he would never be able to take my father's place in my life. His response: "I never want to take your father's place. I would just like to earn my own place in your life." And that's exactly what he did. He's the only person I've ever known who was as stubborn as I am. I am so thankful that he wanted to invest in me.
There's a long story to our relationship, but the most important part is the happy ending. I grew to love this man with all of my heart, and I eventually was more than willing to call him "Dad." As this month comes to a close, I miss him more than ever. Dad died in April of 2010. This past Wednesday would have been his 86th birthday. I turned in my last assignment for my Master's degree today, and he's really the biggest reason I started and finished. I dedicate that degree to him. We never ended a conversation without him telling me he was proud of me, proud of Jeff, and proud of all that we had done. I know that he would be proud of this, too.