In honor of my dad’s big 5-0 birthday, I write this blog.
As I considered what I would write to commemorate this big event, I decided that I wanted to tell five separate stories about my dad. I present each one of these stories as a piece of the puzzle that is my father. There is no one way to describe him, (and fifty is far too difficult), so five pieces of the puzzle will have to do. I hope you can appreciate and grasp the fascinating puzzle that is Christian Nunez (Yes, Nunez) Pilet. I love you, Dad!
Story 1: Christian Pilet, The Protector
I was eleven years old. And yet, I remember it all very clearly.
We were living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and my mother had just sent me out to purchase some bread for lunch. The store that sold our favorite bread was only a block and a half away. Because of this, our family would often get a new loaf of bread every day around noon. This was when the bread would have only just been delivered to the store, still steaming warm. I knew, if I went quickly enough, the bread would still be warm when I returned home.
Off I went into the chilly air, rushing past the broken playground and basketball court that sat pitifully in front of our apartment building. I stumbled along the uneven sidewalk, as eleven-year-old Grace was oft to do, and eventually found myself in the little store. I quickly grabbed the warm circular loaf of bread, paid for it, and hurried out into the street.
I made my way back towards my home, noting that a teenage boy had begun to play basketball on the court in front of our apartment building. He called out to me in Mongolian as I passed. However, I was far too focused on getting the warm bread to the safety of my home to try and translate what he had said. I walked on, my stomach beginning to growl as I neared the door. And then…
My head whipped forward and I fell. The bread tumbled from my hands onto the dirt covered playground. It took seeing the basketball rolling away for me to register what had happened. I looked behind me to see the teenage boy laughing. When he saw me look, he yelled,
I immediately grabbed up my ruined loaf of bread and ran towards my apartment. The tears had already started to fall quickly down my face. I burst into the apartment, bawling, and proceeded to tell my parents what had happened. My father shot up and said,
“Come with me, Grace.”
I followed him out as we walked outside. A couple more boys had gathered on the court, so my father asked me to point to which boy was the culprit. I nervously pointed to the boy and, as I did, the boy looked over at us. Now, to be fair, a big white man can be scary in any country you are in. And a big white, angry father must be something else to behold entirely.
Whatever it was that kid saw, it made him run. And I mean, RUN. Forrest Gump style. Unfortunately for him, my father was up for the challenge. He whipped off his sandals, threw down his planner, and took off around the corner after the kid, leaving me standing mouth agape on the sidewalk.
For ten, maybe fifteen, minutes I stood there. The playground seemed to be holding its breath. Kids were standing, watching, waiting. Just like me. And then…
My dad came around the corner, dragging the kid by his collar. The Victor.
He marched that kid right up to me and, in English, he said,
“You will apologize to my daughter right now. You will never speak to her like that again, do you understand me? Say you’re sorry right now. SAY YOU’RE SORRY.”
Strangely enough, the kid understood.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!!” he yelled, and my father let him go.
The kid scampered away, terrified of the crazy white man and his daughter.
Maybe my dad’s actions that day were a little unorthodox, but I’ll have you know, I never had a problem with that kid again. And, honestly, never again did I think there was anything someone could do to me that my dad couldn’t chase them down and make them say sorry for. He’s always there to come to the rescue.
Story 2: Christian Pilet, A Lover of Life
Over the years, it has become abundantly clear that my father loves all things that are alive. That includes people, animals, and even insects (most of the time). He will fight for their right to live above most anything else. This is a trait I deeply admire, and also, sometimes, deeply concerns me. Let me explain.
Two years ago, my brother, Josiah, wanted to make a youtube video in order to audition for a singing competition. With my great love of arts and my little brother, I was more than happy to assist him in making the video. We carefully chose his outfit, practiced the song, and planned out the video. The only thing left to do was to film.
Out we went into our front yard, and I began to film him singing. Unfortunately, our family cats, Calvin and Hobbes, decided they wanted to be in the film too. Keeping them out of the shot began to be a headache, so I called for my dad to come grab them. My dad, merrily came out to help and to watch Josiah sing. Suddenly, in the middle of a shot, my father darts across the camera and into the background.
“CALVIN! NO!” he yells as I see him, through the camera’s screen, fall to the ground by our cat.
In a dazed panic, I keep the camera going and yell out,
“Dad! What’s going on?!” I run forward, half expecting our cat to be injured or worse.
Worse is right. My father was leaning over giving mouth to mouth to…wait for it…
“DAD?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
I watched as my dad, slowly gave up resuscitating the rodent, and said,
“I lost him.”
Apparently, Calvin had done what most cats do and caught a mouse. My father does not stand for that kind of behavior from our cats. It is important to note that this story is not unique. There have been multiple occurrences of the sort. Chipmunks, bunnies, and birds are all animals that have been snatched out of the clutches of cat death by my father. I’ve sat with my father as we waited for a possum he hit with our car to die. I’ve sat in multiple vet offices while waiting for my father to take a beloved…newly-found…pet to be helped. This may not come as a surprise to you at this point: My father is a vegetarian.
And yes, if you were wondering, we still have that entire mouse thing on video.
Story 3: Christian Pilet, The Goof
My father is one of the most intelligent people I know. His amount of knowledge is incredibly humbling. He knows multiple languages, writes eloquently, discusses theological points with ease, and knows the answer to just about any question you can throw at him.
Honestly, he’d be entirely insufferable if it weren’t for the fact he’s a complete goof. He’s ridiculous, warm-hearted, and down to earth. He was being interviewed by the Seattle Times and a bird pooped on his suit jacket – he just laughed it off. When on the Today Show, he met Matt Lauer and instead of getting excited about that, he asks when Katie Couric will come out. When I told him I was in Jerusalem as rockets were falling, he simply said, “What a great place to die though!”
If there’s anyone who can make you laugh, it’s my father.
When I was four years old, my father spent six months in India on a Rotary trip. There he accrued a great love of Indian food, culture, and lungis. What is a lungi, you ask? A lungi is that wrap-around skirt you see men in India wearing.
Yes, a skirt of sorts for men in India. Dad, of course, brought it back to America.
Skip forward to Grace in high school.
“Hey Grace, can I come over to your house for the afternoon so we can finish the project?” a friend of mine asked over the phone. We had an English assignment due the next day.
“Sure! That’d be great,” I responded.
I tidied up my room, waiting for my friend to arrive. I planned to intercede her at the door and hurry her up the stairs before my family could do anything to embarrass me.
“Grace, your friend is here!!” I heard my dad yell up the stairs.
I dashed down the steps, two at a time. It didn’t matter how fast I went…I was already too late. There was my friend, standing in my living room, staring in shock at my father. The man was wearing his lungi and, to top it off, or rather…not to top it off…was wearing no shirt.
“DAD!” I said in horror.
“What, Grace? I told you, she’s here!” he said to me with an innocent smile, and then moved to shake my friend’s hand, “It’s great to meet you. Have fun doing your project!” Not a lick of shame crossing his face.
And with that, my father left the room, leaving me to explain his bizarre fashion choices.
“It’s…uh…from India.” That goof.
Story 4: Christian Pilet, A Creative Genius
There is absolutely no end to my father’s creativity. He jumps from one project to the next constantly, making one amazing thing after another. Asking for advice on a project, I showed him a picture of an Anthropologie lantern that I thought was a cool idea for my wedding. The next day he had already begun crafting the coffee filter globe that was roughly three feet in diameter. Two weeks later I had the most amazing lantern to hang in the barn at my wedding.
He writes, he paints, and he is truly the most talented violinist you will probably ever hear. No, truly, he was a child prodigy. But his creativity does not end with just the typical arts, it extends into every day life.
One night, when I was six year’s old, I was sleeping peacefully under my Beauty and the Beast comforter. I was probably dreaming about Beauty and the Beast as well, when my father gently shook me awake. It was pitch black and I could tell from my brother’s heavy breathing it had to be the middle of the night.
This could mean only one thing: Daddy-daughter sneak up.
Daddy-daughter sneak ups were rare, fantastic occasions. My father would either wake up in the middle of the night, or wait for my mother to go to sleep. Then he would creep into my room and wake me up. Sometimes we would watch a movie together. Other times we’d eat ice cream. We always had to be sure to be extra quiet though, or my mom would send us back to bed.
This particular night, my dad had a special plan.
“Be very, very quiet, and let’s go to the play room,” he said under his breath.
“Okay!” I whispered a little too loudly.
Once we were in the play room, my dad closed the door very carefully and turned on the light.
“What are we doing tonight, Dad?”
He paused for dramatic effect and then said,
“We’re going to build the tallest lego tower in the world!”
I laughed with excitement and we set to work. We started stacking the legos together on top of my brother’s lego table. Lego after lego, we climbed higher and higher. Eventually, Dad had to grab a chair so that he could continue to put legos on top. It was a beautiful, colorful tower, even if it was swaying a little.
We were just about to put the very top one on, when the door swung open.
“What’s going on in here?!”
My mom, blurry eyed with sleep, gave a confused glance around the room. Dad and I looked at each other.
“Nothing, Mom!” I squeaked. Then, as if in slow motion, the top half of the legos began tipping, and down, down came the tower.
“Chris! What is this?! What are you doing having Grace out of bed?!”
“We were playing, but we were just going to bed now. Weren’t we, Grace?” He looked at me with a meaningful look.
“Yep!” And with that I scrambled off the floor and back to my room. I was worried after that night it might be a long time before my next sneak up, but I should have never feared. After all, my dad’s too creative for that to happen.
Story 5: Christian Pilet, My Father
As cliche as it may sound, one of the best parts about my wedding was when my dad walked me down the aisle.
By no means has my life ever been considered stable. However, all my life, there has been my dad. He was there when I was born; He was there when I rode my Jasmine bicycle for the first time; He was there when I drove a car for the first time; Lame as it is, he was even there when I had my first glass of alcohol.
He has been a very stable force in my life. A driving, supportive force that has always been there for the big moments. Tests. Graduations. Performances. Soon after getting engaged to Leif, I thought about what I wanted my wedding to look like. It wasn’t long before I became worried when I thought of a possible looming conflict with my father.
My dad is a pastor. Would he want to be the one to marry us? There was something so impersonal about that idea, that I couldn’t even imagine it happening. But what if it offended him to have someone else do the ceremony? Would he understand that I just wanted him to be my dad that day? I worried late into the night for days on end. Finally, I mustered up the courage to ask him.
“Dad, about the wedding, did…you want to do the ceremony?” I asked, haltingly.
There wasn’t even a brief pause before he responded,
“Can I not? I really just want to be your dad on your wedding. Walk you down the aisle. I mean if you really want…” I cut him off saying,
“No! That’s fantastic. Exactly what I was thinking.”
Those simple words relieved my fears, and also showed me how important it was to him to be just my dad. Because even though my dad has been Person of the Week with Peter Jennings, gone to violin conservatory with professors from Juilliard, traveled the globe, and has multiple degrees – being my dad on that day was enough.
Walking down the aisle with him was perfect. I couldn’t have imagined it any better.
So here’s to you, Dad, on your 50th birthday. You’re the best dad a girl could ask for and here’s to 50 birthdays more! I love you!