My father has taught me the true meaning of being God’s servant. In my years growing up, my dad was always involved in our parish and Catholic school board. He loved to help out in our community in any way he could. Within our family, he worked tirelessly as a dairy farmer for 30+ years to not only provide food on the table, but also to provide a strong Catholic education for my sister and me. Then, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, rather than letting it get him down, he took it as God’s sign that it was time for him to move on from dairy farming into the next chapter of his life. My dad has never failed to attend Sunday Mass if he can, and he lives out God’s Word in his everyday actions. It has been said that you can see Jesus in the people around you if you look close enough. For me, it does not take much looking before I recognize Jesus and His servitude in my own father.
My father deserves to be this year’s Parent of the Year because he possesses a trait I have never seen so strongly within a person before: unconditional love and support. On Oct. 9, 2015, I drove to my parents’ house to deliver to them the news that I was pregnant. On this drive home, I braced myself for the worst — that I would be kicked out of the house and left on my own to face the journey ahead. Instead, when I finally pulled off the Band-Aid and broke the news to them by saying, “Mom and Dad, I’m pregnant,” their reaction was the last thing I expected: they got up off the couch, came over, and gave me a hug. Over the next nine months, my dad was the one to go with me to Hillcrest Family Services to sort through the selection of adoptive couples’ profiles in search of my baby’s future parents. He was also the one to call the chosen adoptive parents when I went into labor one night at 4 a.m. this past June. He and my mom never once shied away from going to Mass with me in our parish out of shame or embarrassment. In the weeks following the birth and adoption placement, my dad even took off work to make sure I would not be home alone to endure my roller coaster of emotions all by myself. The journey I have had to travel throughout the pregnancy and adoption has not been an easy one, but this ride would have been a heck of a lot rougher without the support of my family. I can never thank them enough for that.
As if these experiences weren’t challenges enough, another event during the past year revealed to me the unbelievable extent of my dad’s love and support. Early on the morning of March 16, 2016, I called my parents to deliver to them yet another piece of news that no parent should ever need to hear: my college residence building was on fire. While everyone was safe and the events surrounding the Visitation fire could have had a much worse ending, my dad was a pinnacle of strength for my roommates and me throughout that fateful day. After receiving my phone call, my dad dropped everything to drive to Dubuque and help me, my roommates, and everyone else involved in the fire in whatever way he could. Whether this was a shoulder to cry on, a heartfelt embrace, or even a pair of hands to carry belongings out of the building, my dad was there.
My dad’s actions over the past year have shown me the true meaning of unconditional love. Despite the teaching done when a child is young, no parent can ever control what happens later in the child’s life. My parents experienced this firsthand with me over the past year and a half, yet their love and support never once faltered. While both of my parents have surprised me throughout this past year, it has been my dad who has always gone the extra mile for me and everyone I care about. There is no way I could ever fully thank him for this to the extent he deserves, but I believe that his receiving of this award is the least I can do to show my appreciation for everything he has done.