As I’ve grown older and raised my own kids, my dad has gotten smarter and smarter. I realize now when I was a snot-nosed, smart aleck teenager, he was actually right about many things.

My dad had his left knee replaced right before Memorial Day. He had his right knee done the year before.

Old football injuries from playing quarterback at Hawthorne High School south of Los Angeles hobbled him as he got older.

After several complications, including hernia surgery, he’s almost healthy again.

My 72-year-old dad, a U.S. Marine Corps vet, worked in Christian radio as a manager and announcer for Family Life Radio.

His recent health battles have got me thinking about him. He always championed me. I don’t want to lose him anytime soon.

My dad proudly tells the story about when he learned my mom gave birth to a son in 1968 in Jacksonville, Florida. A sergeant called him out of the classroom. “Private! You’re a proud father of a baby boy! Now get your (butt), back in class!”

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be like my dad. He would use my mom’s brown eyebrow pencil to draw a mustache on me, so I could look like him. The two of us would picnic in the trunk of his white 1954 Cadillac.

Baseball was my favorite sport. My dad never said no when I asked him to hit me endless grounders, play catch or throw batting practice at Fort Lowell Park.

One time he and his friend, Wally, showed up to one of my Little League games. They sat in the stands on either side of a loudmouth intent on making me miserable. He didn’t stand a chance as my dad and Wally drowned him out.

When my younger sister and I attended high school, he began working overnights at the local station. When he went to work, we went to bed. When we woke up, he would come home. It seemed like he was always there.

Whenever I return home, my dad makes sure we enjoy an Arizona basketball game together. Last time we went, Shaq sat in the stands, too.

As I’ve grown older and raised my own kids, my dad has gotten smarter and smarter. I realize now when I was a snot-nosed, smart aleck teenager, he was actually right about many things.

Get better, dad, and stay better! You’re my hero!

Duwayne Escobedo covers Santa Rosa County for the Daily News. You can contact him at 850-315-4489 in Fort Walton Beach, on his cell phone at 850-255-1484 or email him at descobedo@nwfdailynews.com