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The Only Time I Saw My Dad Cry Was After Spending 18 Long Years Trying To Break Him

My father is a proud man. He has gone through rough patches in his life that have really tested his strength, but he always maintains his resolve. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned things about my dad that have made me realize how resilient he truly is. But then it happened: I finally saw my dad cry after I spent 18 long years trying to break him.

My dad grew up in the 1950s, when men were taught not to show emotions, and I thought I’d never see the old man well up until I really applied myself to systematically tearing through his tough exterior over the course of two decades. His quiet strength proved to be more than a match for when he lost his longtime job at the General Motors plant, when my uncle found out he had colon cancer, or when I burned the VHS tape of his wedding right in front of him. Yes, my dad was a real-life superhero, and the only time I ever saw him show his vulnerable side was at the culmination of the countless hours of planning, storyboarding, and experimenting I had invested into my goal of making him bawl like a baby.

My dad is tough. He watched some of his closest friends die in Vietnam and never shed a tear in front of us, so I knew that if I was going to break my father, I had my work cut out for me. When I took a sledgehammer and completely demolished the Corvette my late uncle left behind for my dad, not a single tear fell from his cheek. He didn’t bat an eye when I pushed him onto the ground after he told me he was proud of me on my college graduation day, or when I convinced his best friend that my dad was sleeping with his wife, forever ruining their relationship. If my dad did weep privately behind closed doors, he certainly didn’t do it in any of the areas I had set up hidden cameras to capture that exact sort of thing.

One thing is for sure: Men of my dad’s generation are just of stronger stock, plain and simple.

Sometimes, when a particular plan I had spent months working on to break my dad down into a sobbing mess had failed, I felt like crying, but my father’s calm stoicism showed me that everything was going to be okay: I would one day crack through his tough exterior and destabilize his emotional core if I believed in myself. My father taught me never to give up, even when your goal seems impossible, and I owe him everything for that.

Finally, the day came when my dad gave in to his emotions and let tears pour down his face. The only time I ever saw my father cry was when he found out that I had orchestrated hundreds of scenarios over nearly two decades solely to make him break down and weep—that ultimately was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But I believe that my father is a stronger man for crying in front of me after suffering through the 18 years of hell I meticulously engineered to turn him into a shell of a man, and does not change how I view my hero one bit.

I love you, Dad.