The biggest shoes to fill are sometimes a size 10

Contributing WriterJuly 22, 2013 

Any girl who loves her father has a built-in litmus test for prospective suitors. The more awesome the dad, the harder a “young fella,” as Grandma says, must strive for her heart.

If the suitor is worth his salt, he will accept this challenge with a zealous dedication formerly reserved for sports, career or perhaps drinking PBR, depending on the fella. He will quietly and calculatingly observe the man she holds in highest regard, and in doing so will realize his carefully laid plot is helping him become a better man.

I know this is a failsafe path to a girl’s heart because my dad is one righteous dude.

Describing him in a few words is simple: Bill Frink never gives up. I believe the only thing he failed at in life was Throwing in the Towel 101, a course I personally aced then retook for fun.

A notable triumphant battle: the hand of my mother. This test of will and determination began in 1965 at Mount Tahoma High School and resulted in victory at the altar 14 years later. My parents recently celebrated 34 years of marriage (and 32 years of me). Way to go, Pop!

Once upon a time Dad decided to drive the whole family to Disneyland in our old motor home, aptly licensed WLDGOOS. His kidneys, miraculously healthy today, were failing at the time, causing his body and legs to swell with fluid. To remedy this, he rotated propping his legs on the dash to keep the edema down. He was determined to get us there, and get there we did.

When he finally conceded to let us push him in a rolling throne, or wheelchair, through the Happiest Place on Earth, we discovered the only good thing that will ever come of kidney disease: legs so swollen a handprint can be left in the skin will get you to the front of the line at Space Mountain.

Another hard-fought and lengthy struggle nearly claimed his life. During the Vietnam War, while he intercepted messages below radars in low-flying planes, Agent Orange intercepted his body. Returning home, war broke out within him as his immune system turned on itself and his organs, particularly his liver, began to fail.

After seven long years on the transplant waiting list, he received a new liver at literally his last minute in 2001. Words are insufficient to describe how grateful my family is for our donor’s precious gift of life; it was the weapon that allowed Dad to finally emerge champion over his body.

In 2003, an overwhelmed daughter dialed 800-HELPMEDAD! when moving home from Rhode Island. Without hesitation he jetted to Providence, hitched a U-haul onto the back of my silver Beetle and joined my two-cat caravan on the journey home. Zeke, the madly shedding white one, claimed the dash for almost the entire drive.

Once home in Midland, Dad and I emerged from our traveling pod looking as though we’d tumbled from a colossal dandelion. He may have rolled his eyes repeatedly and promptly placed the ShopVac in my hands, but he didn’t complain. He was happy have his thick-skulled, strong-willed, vociferous carbon copy back where she belonged. Crazy guy.

This past Father’s Day, when he should have been allowing the Frink hens to cluck and fuss around him, he instead clambered atop my footstool and solved a complicated puzzle that had stymied me for months: changing a burned-out, stuck LED lightbulb. He then rigged a functioning grill from two mismatched camping barbecues and rounded out his day of rest by Googling how to reattach my refrigerator door to “the more logical side.”

When life seems unsteady, my dad’s constancy brings me peace. Bill Frink always gets well, he always shows up, and somehow his 145-pound frame makes me feel safer with him than if Duane “The Rock” Johnson were marching behind me.

The map to this daughter’s heart, therefore, is clearly marked. Until my suitor accepts his challenge, my feet are sure and my path is bright. If I do happen to take a wrong turn, though, I know who I’ll call.

Melissa Frink is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. She lives in North Tacoma with her feline daughter, Moxie Moo Frink. She has no human children at this time. Email her at melissa.j.frink@ gmail.com.

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