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My dad

Sheila Hagel Zanghi.

If my dad had not been my dad, I would have been blessed to have just known him. It seemed everyone loved my dad and children adored him. We called him the baby whisperer because whenever there was a fussy baby at a gathering the baby would be handed to my dad to deal with. In a matter of minutes, the cranky baby would become a cooing giggling baby.

In fact, when our friends were up with their very fussy 8-month-old, they were reluctant to leave her with my folks as we went to a meeting. Our friends were worried their baby was fussing but when we got back home their daughter was sitting comfortably on dad's lap. She was so comfortable she ignored her parents. They were shocked. It was my dad's empathy and calmness that made babies instantly like him.

My dad loved gadgets. If it took him twice as long to complete a task using a gadget, he would use a gadget. When I was 15, mom took my younger sister to Minnesota leaving me in charge. Dad decided it was an opportunity to go to the local swap meet to look for gadgets. He came home with a paint sprayer. He said the gadget could quickly cover the fence with redwood stain. I reminded him to take his new blue shirt off and put on a work shirt. A few hours later he came in, covered in redwood stain speckles, from his hat to his new shirt. I panicked and washed the shirt in bleach but all it did was change the beautiful blue to a sickly green with redwood speckles. In his defense, the excitement of a gadget had made him lose focus.

I was thinking about his calm attitude. When I was 16, he decided it was time for me to learn how to drive a stick shift. Unfortunately, his old car had the shifter on the column. I took off in first, changed to second, and then changed it to ... reverse. The car shuddered to a halt, and I just knew I had killed the car. Dad took a moment, nodded his head, then looked over at me and asked, "Do you want to try it again?" Of course I did not want to, but I did not want to let him down, so we went all the way home in second gear.

Dad would say, "I have three daughters and they're all girls." I am still not sure if it was his humor or the fact that out of the three of us, I was the only daughter who was dad's helper. For example, I was the only daughter he trained to check and add oil, change tires and how to add water to the radiator. Later, when my Mustang had an issue with the battery terminals, he gave me a hammer and showed me how to tap them to life.

It came in handy when I had to give a ride home to a fellow employee trainee. He and other trainees had been drinking the night before and they all smelled of stale beer. Ugg. We got into the car and as expected, it did not start. As I grabbed the hammer from the backseat, I told the hungover guy to hang on while I addressed the issue. I popped the hood, gently tapped the battery terminals and proceeded to hit the hood and elsewhere inside the engine area with gusto to ensure he would never ask for a ride from me again, especially when he was in a smelly hungover condition.

I have great memories of my dad and all the small things that added up to my happy childhood. I remember my parents sitting at the kitchen table talking and laughing into the wee hours. They were best friends and I am forever grateful to have been raised by these two remarkable people.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.