1. A big, open-minded, bleeding heart.
2. A gritty tobacco-field work-ethic and immutable swearing habit to counteract the bleeding heart.
3. Love of a good laugh.
4. Love of a good story. My dad put the first big stories into my head, ones that resonated and deeply affected me, stories about his tough upbringing, about first dates with 50 cents in his pocket, tin foil Christmas ornaments, his years as a pool shark with a knife tucked in his knee sock, the first time he fired a man at a mill in rural Virginia and watched him walk to his car.
5. Distrust of all hot dogs, and general squeamishness.
6. My face.
7. A love of soul music. He used to sing Rainy Night in Georgia to me as my bedtime song.
8. Autodidactism. When my dad wants to learn something, he teaches himself. This habit was at first born of necessity, but continues. Teaching yourself takes a certain stubbornness, but sometimes it's the only way.
9. Awareness of song lyrics. He was always calling my attention to certain lyrics, their deceptive simplicity. Now I do the same for my girls. It's how I learned to pay attention to words, meaning, and sound.
10. Enjoyment of tidy mysteries (Angela Lansbury!) and history. Taking these things in with a rational mind but opening a window for questions, for just a little magic.
11. Driving advice - Look over your shoulder before you change lanes. (I do this without fail now. Repetition works.)
One day, when I was in middle school, I came to the fancy corporate office where my dad worked so that we could have lunch together. (Picture a corporate 80s cafeteria in the south. Jello. Biscuits. Salad bar with cubed meat.) We got our food, and sat down with the janitor, Earl. It wasn't just a teaching moment; it was something my dad did often, not just when I was watching.
But luckily I was watching.
Here's to good dads who spend a lot of time reminding their daughters that they can do anything.