Archived Story

Happy birthday, dad

Published 6:20pm Monday, November 7, 2011

“Hello. You have reached the Nettles’ house. If you’re calling for Bob or Latrelle, please leave a message. If you’re calling for Natalie, and you’re a boy, please leave your full name, your date of birth, the name of both your parents and your social security number and I’ll get back to you.”

That’s the message my father recorded on our family answering machine when I was 15. I was at that age when boys had started calling the house to talk to me, and I was absolutely humiliated. He was joking – sort of – and poking fun at his reputation for being protective. (My dad is a retired FBI agent, so you can’t really blame him for being protective of his only daughter.) He promptly removed the message after I pitched a fit – but not until after my mom called all their friends to tell them to call the house to hear it. Ten years later, it’s a story my dad and I now both love to tell.

This past Friday was dad’s birthday, and he and my mom visited me Saturday to celebrate the occasion. As usual, he was worried about all those little things fathers tend to think about:

“Is your car running OK?”

“Did you remember to get your oil changed?”

“Do I need to fix anything in your apartment?”

“Have you paid your cable bill yet?”

I wasn’t surprised by any of the above questions. My dad has always been a bit of a worrier. But he’s always had my best interests at heart and has given me some great advice over the years.

First, he’s taught me to work hard. My dad was a hard worker, and he always pushed me to do my best in school so I could “one day get a good job.” I was a good student, but math was not my best subject. I can remember the two of us sitting at our kitchen table night after night so dad could help me with my math homework. Of course, I didn’t particularly enjoy these sessions at the time, but I passed all my math classes, so I can’t complain.

He’s also taught me to not waste money. My dad was an accountant before entering the FBI, and if anybody knows how to manage money, it’s him. I didn’t understood the concept of being thrifty while under my parents’ roof, but now that I’m on my own, I understand it all too well.

He’s also a stickler for safety – “Don’t forget to lock your doors!” he says – and I never do forget. My dad’s also my biggest fan. My mom says he goes on The Outlook website every night just to read my stories, and I have no doubt he’ll be reading this one shortly after it’s posted.

So here’s to you, dad. Thanks for worrying about me. I’m no doubt a better person because of it.

Oh, and happy birthday!

Natalie Nettles is a staff writer for The Outlook.