Parents raise, shelter, feed and nurture us. They pay for years of baseball equipment and training so that we can break their hearts when, as teenagers, we decide to quit playing. So, we love them. The least we can do is love them - unconditionally. We owe them that much.
Unconditional love - no holding back. It's instinctual and it's different from conditional love, the kind that develops over time and is earned. We begin to understand it when hardship becomes a part of our lives, and we begin to see the sacrifices our parents made to raise us. We get inklings of what they left behind. Is it then that these feelings are born for our parents?
On Mother's Day, we honor matriarchs like saints. We recite verses about the miracles they performed throughout our lives. If I were writing a column about my mother, it would be filled with moments where she inspired me when I needed a lift, saved me when I was in danger, or drew blood when I needed a lesson (figuratively speaking).
Stories about mothers are like folklore, while fathers are more philosophical. I don't have those same singular moments about my father that I have about my mother. This intangible emotion is hard to describe, but it is what comes to me when I think of my dad this Father's Day.
Sacrifices that he made
My father was supportive and loving, and I felt secure in his approval of me. We never discussed intimate things about our lives, yet we were close. Still, it wasn't until I was a teenager when I finally knew my father well enough to find I loved him for who he was, and not just because he was present.
I was probably about 16 when a friend of mine and I walked in on him while he was playing guitar in front of an old computer in our spare bedroom in Apple Valley, Calif. He was manipulating the strings in a way I had never seen, stretching, splitting and bending them to create reverberations both assaulting and beautiful.
I always knew my dad played guitar in a band before I was born, but lots of people play in bands growing up, so I had never thought much about it.
While I was growing up, my dad's old band friends would call and, if he wasn't home, they would eagerly talk to "Toad's" son and indulge in a story or two.
"He could hear anything and replicate it on the guitar. No chords, no music. He could hear it and play it."
"He was the best."
When I walked in on him that day, playing alone when he thought no one was watching, it confirmed the stories the voices over the phone had told me.
The reason I had never seen my dad play guitar before that moment was that he stopped playing when I was born.
My dad gave up music to get a real job. Recording studios, traveling, the music industry, none of it jibed with family life. To my dad, it was a personal ultimatum and it wasn't much of a choice.
And I think about that and I am disappointed. I'm mad at him for never trying to teach me the guitar. I'm sad that we never bonded over music. I am frustrated for lacking the motivation to ask.
I don't even think we ever went to a concert together.
But mostly, I admire him.
The truth is my love for my dad has little to do with me. That isn't to diminish our relationship (which is good) or his love (unquestionable), but my admiration for my father really stems from who he is as a man and a husband.
Being there for his family
And that has never been more evident to me than in these last few months when my mother has been sick and I've watched her illness swallow my father. He has thought of nothing else but her. If I didn't remind him to eat, he would have starved. If I didn't repeat what the doctors were saying, he wouldn't have heard it. If I didn't talk to him, he would have never spoken.
Some people might see his reaction to my mother's illness as crippling. My father should have been stronger for my mother, for me and our family, they might say. Those people would be wrong. My father has never been weak, he just never put himself before his family. If that makes him vulnerable, I'll take it. It makes me want to be a husband like him when I get married this September.
In the days he and I sat in hospital waiting rooms or in the silence of my parents' home while my mother slept in a foreign bed, we exchanged few words, but I never wondered about our relationship or if we should we have talked more. I just wanted to be with him because there has never been a moment in my life when I didn't feel safer simply because he was around. I always knew he would be there because he has proven his entire life to me and my mother that he would be there.
So during these distressing times, when fear followed us daily, the thing I hoped for was that I would be there for him and for those coming soon into my life.
I hope to be my father's son.
Daniel Tedford is the Digital News Director for the Los Angeles News Group where he oversees digital content and operations.