When I was an English major at BYU, my dad told me to tell my professors that I was his daughter. I was appalled.
"Seriously, Dad?" I said. "You think I'm gonna start dropping your name now?"
His name was LaVell Edwards, and it was a point of honor with me not to play the LaVell card.
He looked at me with this expression he used to get on his face — crooked smile, one eye half-closed, his look all wry and sly.
"Hey," he said. "I've got a bunch of players who need all the help they can get in the English department over there. I need YOU to help ME."
Now here's another true story:
I was sitting in a room once, the only woman in a room full of men, when I realized that no one there was really listening to what I was saying. The guys were talking over me, around me, past me. And suddenly I realized I was having an experience I had never had before, i.e., not being listened to because I was — you know — a girl.
The thing is, my dad always listened to me. He listened to me as much as he listened to my brothers. Daughter. Sons. Sons. Daughter. It was all the same to him. In a world that sometimes values its boys more than its girls, that man gave me the gift of taking me seriously.
And also not seriously.
My dad loved to laugh. And he loved anyone who made him laugh. Laughing LaVell was a thing of beauty. Here's what he looked like: First, he would close his eyes and crinkle up his face. Then he would throw back his head and clap his hands. And THEN came the noise — an explosion of mirth that made his shoulders shake.
I loved that sound. So when I was a little girl, I would make jokes to see if I could get him to laugh. Stupid jokes. Lame jokes.
But I would always wait for the reaction, and when it came — which it usually did because he was a generous laugher — I felt buoyant.
Here's a heads up for all you dads out there: Do your daughters a favor and laugh at their jokes. Go to their parent-teacher conferences. Treat their mothers and grandmothers with respect. Teach them how to do the things that you know how to do — swing a golf club, throw a softball, make a garden, love Willie Nelson with all your heart and soul, drive a stick shift, tell a story while sitting on the living room couch, help a stranger, salt an apple, swim the length of a pool, be there for a friend, try something new, write notes of encouragement, always deal face cards to your left, withhold judgment, sing along with the radio even if you can't sing, feed your wife's dog the rest of your dinner when your wife isn't looking, cry at your daughter's wedding, and smile whenever you step away from the sidelines.
The lessons you teach her may not always take. But she won't forget that you tried.
Safe passage, Dad.
— Ann Cannon can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.