Father’s Day Celebrations Remind Daughter About Lost College Dreams

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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A Father Carries by Karen TribettIn honor of Father’s Day, this week on 8 Women Dream we’ve decided to share our dream stories about the men who’ve supported our dreams.

I used to think Father’s Day was for my son and his dad and how I was needed to help them get it together.  But ever since co-dreamer Heather and I went to the Hallmark Father’s Day blogger event in San Francisco last week, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been ignoring a very important part of my dream past: my dad.

This is what we do when we are busy raising children.

We turn all the holidays into events about the kids. Holidays are more fun when they are viewed through the eyes of a child, but now that my son is 17-going-on-mom-leave-me-alone, I am no longer needed to manage Father’s Day like I once did.

Hallmark asked the bloggers at the event to write something about our fathers, or important male figures in our lives and send them in ahead of time.

Since my father died when I was 18 and my step-father died when my son was 3, I thought, “Why bother?  Father’s Day isn’t about me. My father and my step-father are gone. What’s the point?”

But once I sat with the table of bloggers and Hallmark card writers, I began to see that Father’s Day could be anything I wanted it to be and that I had been shutting down a big part of who I am.

As the Hallmark writers challenged us through writing prompts I began to think about my dad and how he once was the champion for my dreams.

How could I have forgotten this?

Father's Day Celebrations: Dad with his truck

My father was a teamster truck driver and heavy equipment operator. For as long as I can remember he rose every morning at 4:30am to drive into work and drive equipment all day. He’d arrive home exhausted, somewhere between 6:00 – 7:30pm.

They were long brutal days and he was proud to do it. It was a career full of sacrifices so that my brother could be a boy scout and I could be a ballerina.

His job was always about his family’s dreams.

Father's Day Celebrations: My Dad Putting on a new roofBecause he worked such long hours during the week, on Saturdays I’d follow him around like a shadow, helping him fix anything that he was working on.

I learned to plant a garden, repair a toilet, hammer a nail, shoot an arrow from a bow, mow the lawn, landscape with flowers, change the oil in my car, and be loyal to my friends, among hundreds of other things.

He used to lecture me in stories, relating what I was doing wrong to some person he knew and how continuing my certain line of thinking would effect me long term.

He always changed my perception for the better.

It was during one of these “stories” that I found out that his real dream job was to work on cars.

He dreamed of owning a shop where all he did was change the oil and perform tune ups. He was a visionary before his time.

He ignored this dream, except to dabble in it as a hobby.  He felt his teamster job had incredible benefits and earned him a good living wage.  He was grateful.  He’d never risk that security for a vision he liked to chat about on Saturday afternoons before his nap.

My mother was happy as a registered nurse and happy with our life.  That was all that mattered to my father.  If we were happy, then he was happy.

His dream advice to me was always the same, “Go to college.  I don’t care what you do, but go to college.”

Following in his shadow and helping him around the house taught me more about my dreams than college ever did.

One winter he built me a dollhouse in the left side of my clothes closet.  He then gave me old wallpaper scraps and leftover house paint to decorate the interior rooms. I must have redecorated that dollhouse a hundred times.  We even built wooden doll furniture together and he showed me how to get the table heights right so that Barbie’s long legs could fit underneath.

If you knew me today, you’d see that I am always working on my home and moving things around — measuring and re-measuring. I taught my teenage son how to fix a toilet and how to tie a decent knot.

Working on my home brings me a sense of peace and feeds my creative spirit.  I still paint like he taught me and agree with his statement that all wallpaper is made in hell.Father's Day Celebrations: My Betty Bike

When I was about 10-years-old we used to work on my 3-speed Stingray bicycle together.  I’d spend countless hours riding around my neighborhood feeling like I had the best bike in the world because my father had “tricked it” to make it go faster.

The first time I road my new Betty bike as an adult, a retro throwback to that time, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was picturing my father behind me pushing me down the street, while I screamed at him to not let go.

He’d say, “But you don’t need me to fly Cathy.  You can do it just fine on your own.”

Whenever I’d write something where I wanted his opinion I’d stand on our fireplace hearth and make him listen to me as if I was giving an important speech. “Dad!  Look at me for a minute!” I’d shout.  He’d look up, nod his head, patiently wait for the end of my story and say, “That’s nice hon.”

I would sigh a big dramatic sigh and say, “But you ALWAYS say that!” and he’d reply, “Because it’s true.”

Bigger than life.

He was a big, Paul Bunyan-type man who made you feel safe just by being near him. He taught me everything from street smarts to how to build a fire from sticks. He wanted me to be fearless and take risks with my creativity.

Father's Day Celebrations: My Dad in his youthHe didn’t care if I became a street painter, if that’s what made me happy, “as long as there is a college for that!” he’d say.

He was a depression-era parent who only attended school through the 8th grade and then went to work in the fields to support his mother and two younger sisters.

He used to believe that not going to college meant that he wasn’t as smart as those who did and I’d get crazy angry at him because there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do or fix.

He built our family room from “images in his mind.” When the city inspector came by with each inspection he would be completely blown away by my dad’s work.

It was always to code. My dad would shrug his shoulders and say, “It’s just in my head. When I need an idea, I just relax and it comes.”

My father was a veracious reader, who loved history books. “You can learn a lot from your past, Cathy.” he’d tell me, “Just don’t get stuck there.”

And then, it all ended.

Four months after he died, I burned my journals and stopped writing. I was 18-years-old.

It would have broken his heart to see me give up on my dreams. The happiest he said he’s ever seen me was when, “You were running Father's Day Celebrations: Dad when he was sickthat damn high school newspaper.”

He was sure I was going to be a famous writer.

Losing him turned my writing to bitter ash and I wanted no part of it.

I stopped writing stories for 32 years.

Instead of following my dreams I went to work in banking and then moved on to technology.

It wasn’t until I started working with tech guys and tinkering with computers, that I began to see that I had buried the best part of myself.

I didn’t realize how much I missed hanging out with men who worked with their hands while thinking of creative ways to make something better.

Did someone clone parts of my dad?  Would he have been a tech geek too?  Probably.

When Instant messaging appeared on the Internet, suddenly I was writing again in spite of myself.  I found that I had a talent for online chat. The writer in me was re-born as I’d click away on my computer keys, laughing until my sides ached.

Father's Day Celebrations: The photo of dad I carried in my walletTechnology pushed me back into writing.  I even started my first blog at the suggestion of one of the tech guys I worked with.  “You should do that.  You’d be good at it!” he advised.

Since then, I haven’t stopped writing.

It’s been a long way back to this old dream of mine.

This Father’s Day I want to thank my father for teaching me all those childhood skills that lead me to technology and ultimately back home to writing, and living my dreams — where you thought I always belonged.

Dad, working at your side taught me more about math, life and sacrifice than I ever learned in college.

But if you were alive today, I’d bet you’d say, “Are you still running that Internet newspaper thingy?”

“Yes, dad.”

“Is there a college for that?”

I miss you dad.


Happy Father’s Day to all the men that help make our dreams come true.

Father's Day Celebrations: The last Birthday card from my dad


  • Such a beautiful story about – and from – beautiful people. Thank you for sharing Cath – you have such a big heart. And I love that I can write on your internet newspaper thingy!

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