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Despite loss, love has never been missing

Gary Crooks, wife Laura and Carly and Calvin at Glacier National Park in 2003.
Gary Crooks, wife Laura and Carly and Calvin at Glacier National Park in 2003.

I have been raised by my dad since I was 6 years old. I can’t even remember my mom. But being raised by my dad isn’t really that different, I would assume. I mean, a parent is a parent – right?

Like I said, I was too young to remember my mom, but from photos and stories, I know who she was. I know she loved me, and cared about me, and was always there for me. Honestly, I just described two people – my mom, but also my dad.

I often wonder what my life would be like if my mom was still here. Right now, I’m used to only having my dad, and often times I feel like he’s all I need.

He’s always done a great job at making sure I’m happy. He listens when I need a listener, and encourages me when I need encouragement. If parenting were an assignment, I’d give my dad an A.

One of the things I love about my dad’s parenting is that he’s kind of just cool with what we do. He doesn’t set many rules, and almost never punishes my brother, Calvin, and me.

Sometimes, I wonder if he just doesn’t want to go to the trouble of punishing us, or if we’re just good kids. There’s really nothing I would change about the way my dad cares for me; he does it great already.

The funny thing about my dad is he’s more like “me” than I am. You’d probably expect a 12-year-old girl to like to stop for a milkshake or ice cream on a road trip, or ask to go to the movies, or like to shop, and care about how she looks.

Really, my dad is the one who does this. Calvin and I are what we all like to call anti-kid. If we’re on a road trip and my dad asks us “Hey, you guys want to stop for a milkshake?” We’ll usually reply no, and he really asked because he wanted one!

In the car it’ll be us asking him to turn down his music. If he were to say, “Let’s go to the movies!” We would be saying “No,” or “I’m good.”

We are always joking about things like this. Also, there’s the fact that my dad cares more about how I look than I do.

He’ll say “You shouldn’t wear that, it doesn’t match.” Or “can you at least brush your hair?”

And he practically has to make me go shopping. A year or two ago, I wore this gray, knit sweater, and he hated it!

He said it was too small, too short, and that it made him look bad. Like he didn’t buy me clothes when I needed them.

I could mention that the sweater was supposed to look small.

There are also times when he’s actually had to tell me to stop reading so we can go somewhere or do something. How’s that for anti-kid?

There are some things about my dad that I wish he wouldn’t do, but I couldn’t do without. Things like his endless (bad) puns, or his dancing and singing – even in the car (“At least one hand on the wheel Dad! Please!”).

Sometimes, I join in on the bad puns. One time, we annoyed Calvin on a road trip by saying things like, “I’m Hungary, let’s get some Chile,” for at least a half hour. The only person who hates his puns more than I do is Calvin.

Being raised by my dad is an – er – interesting experience. There are the good times and the weird times. There are the sweet moments and the anti-kid ones. There are sad moments, and great moments.

We never run out of things to make jokes about. There’s really an inexplicable bond between us, one that I don’t expect to ever break.