A Thank You Letter To The Father Who Made Me Who I Am Today

Clem Onojeghuo

As I sit in a coffee shop listening to Boyzone and contemplating life (as one does), I find myself wondering how I got to this point.

How did I become that strange person that loves old movies and the Disney Channel, superheroes and video games, and obscure 90s boy bands from the UK?

I’ve followed the bread crumbs straight to the source of my unusual obsessions, and it’s not what – or rather, who – you’d expect. It’s not a cool older sibling, or childhood bestie. It’s not a hip aunt or my first crush.

It’s my dad.

My father introduced me to my favorite boy band and he’s the reason that at age 32, I am the weirdest version of myself.

He’s always prided himself on finding an “alternate option,” whether that’s a generic version of the super cool toy that we wanted for Christmas or a more age-appropriate music group for his impressionable young daughters to listen to.

So when my friends were swooning over the Backstreet Boys, my dad was handing me a CD of an Irish band that he felt had “actual talent.”

I fell in love.

They told me that:
No matter what they call us
However they attack
No matter where they take us
We’ll find our own way back.

And I believed them. I still do.

But more importantly they were my secret that separated me from everyone else. They made me different because my friends didn’t know them and they weren’t the cool group everyone was watching on TRL.

Seeds planted for a life of wanting to be outside the norm.

That’s the lesson my dad has taught me over and over again.

Be unique.

The first time I was allowed to watch MTV, it was only because they were showing a marathon of The Monkees. Decades later, my dad and I were watching the Jonas Brothers on the Disney channel because their show reminded us of the antics of Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Davey Jones.

Today, we swap reviews of the latest Girl Meets World episode.

When our friends were sneaking into R-rated movies, my siblings and I were enjoying family nights watching the newest episode of The Pretender, or Early Edition. Wholesome and the perfect building blocks for my later-in-life superhero obsession.

I impressed college theater crushes with my absurd knowledge of old movie actors, courtesy of my dad’s and my obsessive watching of AMC and TCM (Jimmy Stewart is still the man of my dreams).

When I struggled to prepare for an audition, my business-suit-wearing father had me parrot his untrained, but still very strong voice as he sang perfectly in tune what I couldn’t.

When he saw my creativity and computer skills, he handed me a copy of “Studio M.” I know I’d never be a graphic designer today if it weren’t for that silly software that let me move clip art from one side of the screen to the other.

“Need a new computer for college? Ok, I will build you one by hand and spray paint it purple. No one else will have that.”

“Need a car to get to your internship? Ok the nice French lady across the street is selling a bright purple hatchback for dirt cheap.”

“Can’t drive the purple hatchback because it’s a stick? Ok, I am confident enough to drive it. Use my BMW for the time being.”

The list goes on. My dad flooded my world with alternatives to the norm. Showing me the kind of person I want to be and setting the bar high for the kind of man I’d want to be with.

So thank you, Dad. You gave me AOL when people thought Prodigy was going to be a hit, radio shows on cassette tapes long before podcasts were a thing, and a boy band that I will listen to “no matter” how old I get.

However, I will never like generic cereal. You can’t win them all, Dad. TC mark

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