My Dad, My Best Friend
by Sandra Vlcek ©
This commemorative speech was voted second best in an Advanced Speech course at Northwest University.
In the words of Clarence Kellard: “My dad doesn’t tell me how to live. He simply lives and let’s me watch him do it.”
One of the most important days of my life is coming up in about 8 days. And no, I’m not talking about Cinco de Mayo, I’m talking about my graduation from Northwest University. This day has been approaching me like a bum begging for money. I have come to realize that in the end, I have one important and very special person in my life to thank. This amazing human being is my dad.
Today, I want to tell all of you why my dad has been my role model and my best friend since I was little, but even more so over the past 5 years.
Joseph Charles Vlcek was born to Harold and Doree Vlcek in Pasadena, California on Feb. 5th, 1946. I know the angels were rejoicing that day as the sun’s rays were beaming down on St. Luke’s hospital in celebration of his birth. He is the youngest sibling in his family under his two older brothers, Bill and Bob.
My dad lived pretty much a normal and exciting young life up until he was in the 11th grade in high school. One gloomy and rainy day his counselor called him into his office and told my dad to have a seat. His counselor basically told him that he would go nowhere in life because he wasn’t a smart enough student and didn’t have enough potential. And as a result, my dad’s spirit was crushed. But even though his self esteem went down for the moment, his perseverance and determination to succeed ignited. My dad is role model. All of a sudden his goals started to become a reality. He went on to be one of the fastest swimmers on the swim team at Pasadena High, and was awarded most valuable swimmer, became a believer in Jesus Christ at the age of 19, went on to be a lifeguard while attending Pasadena community college, and was accepted into the University of So. California where he graduated with a BA degree in Business. But this amazing man wasn’t done fulfilling his goals yet. He also attended Grace graduated school in long beach, California where he graduated with his masters degree. My dad is my role model.
Despite insecurities that the high school counselor put on my dad, he still kept his head up and showed the world exactly what he was capable of achieving. Soon after receiving his degrees, my dad begun working at General motors and ended up working there for a total of 31 years as the zone sales manager. A couple years after that, he married my mom, Rose, and they had 4 children including myself.
In 2001, my dad retired from GM, yet amazingly, he didn’t move out to a ranch in Montana like he had always dreamed of doing, instead, unselfishly, he took on a new job in order to continue providing for our family. I thank God everyday for giving me the greatest gift of all, my dad. He truly is my role model in life.
My dad is also my best friend. One of the hardest times in my life was when I was a Sr. in high school. I found out the shocking news that I was pregnant. Crushed and ashamed for disappointing my parents I quickly became depressed. I felt that I ruined my future and had failed both my parents. I had never really let them down before. What killed my heart the most was the moment when I told my dad face to face the surprising news. Instead of him blowing up in my face and getting yelled at, my dad stood there quietly. I could see the pain in his eyes as if a loved one had just died. And when he eventually spoke, his words were unrepentantly motivational and loving. He shared his favorite verse with me for the 850th time in my life. Proverbs 3:5&6 TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDINGS, IN ALL YOUR WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AND HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT. My dad is my best friend. Throughout the following 9 mo. And up until I was faced with yet another hard decision in my life: whether or not to give my son, Christian up for adoption or not, my dad was right beside me every step of the way. I turned to him for guidance everyday like I was still a child in the 1st grade.
My dad was the one who motivated me to become the best person I possibly could. He encouraged me to start slow but finish hard, and that is exactly what happened. I started off attending Bellevue Community college 2 months after Cj was born and living with me. I graduated after two years and was ready to give up and be satisfied with my AA degree. But my dad insisted that I could go further in life and I shouldn’t settle for less.
I can clearly remember this warm and humid night in August when my family except for my dad were all sitting down eating a BBQ dinner. Exactly at 5 o clock like every other weekday night my dad came through the garage door, but this time he was holding a black and white crisp piece of paper cut out from a newspaper. It was an advertisement for Northwest University. I wasn’t too sure if it was going to work out for me, I was scared to pursue my dreams any further, in case I were to fail at something again and make my parents unhappy. But once again, my dad shared his favorite verse with me, Proverbs. 3:5 and 6. And while remembering his younger years, my dad lightly put his hand on my shoulder and spoke softly but firmly as he usually did. “Sandra, throughout your entire life you will have sorrow, unfairness and down times. But I am here to tell you that God is good, and things from here on out can only get better. Trust in him, just like I have. When my high school counselor sat me down and told me I could never amount to anything, I turned that around and made something of myself.”
So I am standing up here today sharing with all of you the great relationship that my dad and I have together. He is still my role model and my best friend. He has motivated me through the hardest times of my life and has picked me up every time that I tripped over the smallest troubles.
In 8 days, one of the most important events will be taking place. I will be graduating from Northwest University. And when I walk up in front of all the people in the crowd, I can guarantee you that I will be looking up at my dad in the stands. Because after all, my dad doesn’t tell me how to live, he simply lives, and let’s me watch him do it.
Gigglers, remember last December when we asked for your stories of best friendship for our Tale of Two Besties contest? Well, we’re super excited to announce the finalists and grand prize winner. We’ll be counting down our runner-up besties stories, and on February 18th will announce the winner—plus reveal the ‘A Tale of Two Besties‘ cover! Check out Aiden Strawhun’s story below.
I think the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in life is that I’m only human. There are so many things that I’m capable of. I can hold up an entire world of hurt. I can pick up my pieces. I can move on without a goodbye. I can still smile anyway.
Even so, I’m not without weakness.
I have very thin skin. I cry too much. I don’t really understand “family.” I’m afraid of everything. But that’s the beautiful thing about being human. Our weakness, our struggles—they only lead us to better places. They show us why it’s important to keep moving and loving, even if we think we can’t. Sure, we’ll all come to an end someday, but why can’t our lives in the short time we have here be special?
Three years ago, I wouldn’t have known that. Three years ago, I was in an incredibly dark place that I didn’t know I could escape. Three years ago, I was so full of hatred and resentment of everyone and everything in my life, including myself, that I could have easily given up on it. But I didn’t; you wouldn’t let me.
I grew up without truly knowing you. Due to the bad blood your divorce with my mother caused, you were kept out of my life for fourteen years. Not only this, but because of the lies I was fed, I was convinced you were the most abhorrent creature to ever face the Earth. For most of my life, until I was sixteen, I never once wanted to give you a chance because I, too, harbored the same hatred for you as my mother. To her, you were a liar, a cheater, a manipulator—every name under the sun. Because I was a child and didn’t know any better, I believed every word.
In the end, I don’t know why I finally gave into you. Growing up, I tried to put up walls against you and push you away. I tried with everything I had to hate you, to detest your very existence. But, I just couldn’t. Maybe it was because I was envious of the family you’d created. Maybe I admired it. Maybe I just wanted it for myself. In reality, I gave into my own selfish desires for love and familial intimacy. I wasn’t thinking of living for anyone else at that time—I was living for me.
So, just like that, I jumped off the cliff of my past, hoping I’d fall into your loving arms. I threw away fourteen years of friends and priceless memories just to be with you and your family. I didn’t know any of you, but you still took me in and treated me like I’d been there forever; I don’t know if you’ll ever understand what it all meant to me. And honestly, I’ll never forget the day I did. You actually let me cry; when I was little, you never did. You held me in your arms, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt really, truly loved.
You gave me freedom and hope in a brand new life; a life that I’d never been allowed before. I could wear normal clothes, and eat real meals, and you even helped me with my homework when I needed you to. You supported my dreams of becoming a writer and translated all of my confusing scrawl of poetry, and stories, and imagination. You helped me win my accolades in high school and let me bounce ideas off of you. And the best part of it all was, you didn’t approach me as my father. You came to me as my friend.
I never truly realized until recently just how hard you tried, though. Through my whole life, you fought endlessly for my brother and me, and I never even noticed. When you finally explained just how important I was, I didn’t really understand. You told me that Gaelic traditions spoke of three children. The first was the child of pride, the second was the child of hope, and the third, the child of love; I was the second. I was the first girl in your family for four generations, and that made your father giddy with happiness. Sadly, I never really knew him; I only wish I did.
Eventually, I thought about it. It took me a while, but I figured out just why I am so important to you, as the second child, as your child. My full name means, “Little fiery child of hope never fears, but is cautious.” I’m really not just, “Aiden.” I’m really not just a name to be ridiculed and confused for masculinity—I’m much more.
You described me perfectly before either of us even knew who I’d become.
Just know that I’m thankful for what you’ve done. You’re a real hero—not because you’re “Superhero Dad” and save me from elevators—but because you saved my life. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t moved in with you, and I highly doubt I’d be as successful as I am today. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be getting a better education right now because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it without you. I probably would have stayed inside my shell in that dark and lonely place. I don’t think I would have been very healthy.
To be frank, I know I haven’t always been the best daughter or sister. I know I’ve made my mistakes. And that’s okay. Life is full of mistakes and of pain. Things happen, we bleed when we fall; and it’s okay to be broken. That’s what we have love for. The idea of family scares me because I never really had one. All I know is, you’ve made me feel like I’m a part of yours, of ours. You’ve made me feel like I finally belong somewhere and that I can do things right. Through you, I’ve become proud of myself; and I hope you are proud of me, too.
But please don’t ever forget we’re only human. I will keep making mistakes. I will keep disappointing you and hurting you. I have bumps and bruises, and that’s okay. There’s only so much in life that we can take and it’s okay to take a break—take time to breathe, take a day off work. Don’t miss out on the life you’re able to have now because you weren’t allowed in mine.
Be patient with me—I will take a lifetime to heal from my wounds. Don’t be mad when I tell you the truth; instead, help me better myself. Fighting only makes things worse for everyone in the end, so reason rather than yell. Don’t forget, I’m scared of everything. No one can hurt me more than you, so one hint of disappointment and I’m shaking. I know it seems childish, but it’s all I really know.
I’m no longer a child; I’m a young woman starting her life. I know you may think I’m helpless sometimes, but I’m really not. I can take care of myself and watch out for ones in need. You don’t see that side of me often, but I’m actually very kind. And just because I’m scared of something, doesn’t mean I’ll quit. I’ve become painfully shy these past few years, but I’m still fighting for the life I want to live.
I’m not going to be afraid any more. I’m not going to be afraid of hurting you or even making you happy. I’m going to speak my mind now more than ever, and you’re not going to forget a thing. You will know when I’m hurting, and you will know when I’m happy, because you’re my best friend. And like the rest of my friends see me, you should know the real me, too—as a human, with every beautiful flaw and scar.
Your Child of Hope
This essay was written by Aiden Strawhun.