Thursday, April 11, 2013


This guy's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. Growing up, he was practically a super hero. And while I now know that he does not actually possess any real superpowers, he still holds that greater-than-human status. Atlas is a self imposed nickname, who knows when he gave it to himself. He started giving it to cashiers at restaurants when asked to provide a name for the order. As far as I can tell, his choice of name came from the book Atlas Shrugged that he checked out from the library and read about 10 years ago. If you've seen the book, you know it's rather large (1168 pages). So, naturally it took him a little time to read it, which I think ended up totaling at something around a year. For a solid year, that book was decor on the dashboard of his suburban. He would read it on and off and would go back to the library to renew it and since nobody else had requested it, he just got to check it out again. For a whole year. So I figure, that long of a relationship with a book must surely contribute to his chosen nickname.

The reason I'm telling you this is because Atlas (aka Ross, aka Dad) turned 60 last weekend. Crazy right? So of course, we had to celebrate. My sister, MC, had scheduled to fly home for the weekend and I did too, but I decided to not tell Dad and surprise him. (In short, I was successful with keeping it hush hush up until 24 hours before when there was a minor slip up on the part of the airline. Oh well!) Friday night (the day before his birthday) we had a party! A small gathering of his closest friends, talking and celebrating Ross. Dad doesn't let us celebrate him very much, but just this once, we got away with it. And it was great. 

We decked out the kitchen with pictures of Dad - dating all the way back to his kindergarten graduation!

Some of my favorites - including his "Texas" picture and the newspaper article announcing him getting his eagle scout.

Dad with is portrait from when he was 17. Has he changed a bit? 

Happy Birthday, Papa!

ROCKIN his new safari hat. 

He's had 60 years of an incredible life. If you know my dad, you know what I'm talking about. One of his favorite things to do is to tell stories. He's always said that he wants to educate us kids as much as he can before he's pushing up daisies. And he does a darn good job of it. One of the running jokes in the family is that he repeats himself so much, that if we've heard a story before and he starts in to tell it again, we can raise our hand. If there's no one present who hasn't told the story, then the story doesn't get told. It's kind of like "I know the answer, you don't have to tell me." With all that he repeats, it's amazing to me that there's anything out there that he hasn't told us. For example, at his party last week, one of his friends mentioned my dad's stint as a ski patrolman. Dad had never mentioned this before. With all the stories he tells, how is it possible that one could have slipped through without being recognized? I couldn't believe it! 

As much grief as we give him for repeating these stories, he's got some seriously cool stuff to say. I've always thought about sitting down and recording all that he has to say and putting it into a book. But for now, let me just tell you a few of his best. 

Dad grew up in West Texas, speaking Spanish with the 1/2 of the town who called it their native language. As far as I can tell, he just had free reign of his town. Riding his bike wherever, whenever, being a free kid. He's told me lots of great stories from his time growing up, but some of the better  ones come from his teenage to college years. When he was in high school, he had some odd jobs in the summer. He worked a summer in California, doing who knows what. And he did his first two years of college at W&L then took a two year break before finishing his degree at UT.

During that break he hitch-hiked around the country. Literally. You name it, he went there. He did some construction work in South Carolina, and other places as well. Rumor has it he slept in a couple hedges. I'm pretty sure he lived off of canned beans for an extensive amount of time. He painted an old lady's porch. He got mugged while on a business trip and walked into a 5 star hotel with a ripped shirt. He got stuck up during a robbery when he was a hotel clerk, and ended up punching the guy with the gun. He chiseled the top of a bell tower in Spartanburg. And those are just some tid bits. He's seen a lot of the country and he wants us to do the same. So we spent four of my elementary school summers driving around the US on two week road trips. We visited every national park and monument you could name.

Through all (well, most) of his stories, he found a way to teach us something. For example, he told me about a time when he was hitchhiking and he got picked up by two girls who were around his age (in their 20s). He asked them if they weren't at all worried about their safety, seeing as they were two girls, and they were picking up this ragged looking guy from the side of the highway. He says the conversation went something like this:

Girls: "Oh no, we're not worried! We have a gun for protection!"
Dad: "Really? Can I see it?"
Girls: "Sure" 
- hands gun to dad - 
Dad: "Now you realize, if I really were a bad guy, you've just handed me your gun."
Girls: "Oh! Can we have it back?"

So not the brightest girls on the highway. But telling me this story was how my Dad taught me about being smart and being safe. I bet your dad taught you a little bit differently, ya? Well my Dad's never been one for conventional methods. For anything. 

My Dad is a man who has been weathered by time, but in the best way. The way where you know he's only called old because he's done so much. Aside from all of his adventures, he's just a great guy. He's spent the last 20 years working for the sole purpose of taking care of our family. He takes care of us. It's what he does. His job is a big part of him. He's a CPA, and he his hands down the most people-oriented CPA you will ever meet. He loves talking to people, and he loves getting to know them. He could make conversation with a wall. And it would be a conversation you would want to listen to. Not only does he love talking to other people, but he loves talking to them about them. He consistently cares about what's going on in his friends' lives. As his friend said in a toast at his party, if you want to hear about Ross, you really have to work to turn the conversation in that direction. He also loves to people watch. Anywhere you go, if you find him a bench, he'll be happy.

I think one of the most potent things my Dad has taught me is the great things that a person can do. He's faced a lot. He's overcome a lot of obstacles that were staggering in both magnitude and frequency. And he takes them all in stride. But the best part about it is, he makes it evident that he doesn't do it on his own. At 60 years old, he still sits down every morning to talk with the one guy who's greater than him. And I know for a fact that no matter how bad of a day I'm having, it'll be ok, because I know that my Dad prayed for me that morning. I mean, you can't really get a dad who's better than that, can you?

So in short, he's an incredible guy. And if you ever get the chance to meet him, you'll be better for it. 

Let me leave you with a couple of Ross' best: 

Dad in his Texas best

He's so good at smiling, even if he never shows his teeth.

His signature pose.

Looking cool as he always does.

Ladies and gentlemen. I give you Ross without facial hair for the first time in 42 years. He shaved his mustache on his 60th birthday.

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