In the parking lot of the hospital where I was born, he dropped me while carrying me to the car to bring me home for the first time. I reciprocated months later by sitting on his face with a soaked diaper while he was napping. (And that was back when cloth diapers were the norm.)
In preschool he caught fireflies in a bottle for me. I serenaded him with my “movie star voice” and told him he was the love of my life.
In grade school he taught me how to knit by first teaching himself from a manual because I needed it for a Girl Scout merit badge. I rewarded him with a red scarf roughly shaped like Panama that he wore every day with his black overcoat for years.
In middle school he spent hours upon hours teaching me about magnetic-levitation trains and helping me craft a working model out of Legos and super glue. I won us both the Grand Champion Ribbon at the science fair.
In high school he searched my room, confiscated my Alanis Morissette CD, hated my boyfriend and showed up at parties to check up on me. I retaliated by hiding my contraband at friends’ houses, leaving my angsty music on max volume in his car, dating my boyfriend for two years and going to parties I had absolutely no business being at.
In the summer before college he demanded to still be a part of my life. I moved out and refused to talk to him for four months.
In college he finally accepted me as an independent adult who could take care of myself. I graciously thanked him by allowing him to take me out to lunch once a month, on his dime, and then allowing him to listen while I gave a non-stop narrative of my life for two hours.
In graduate school he was my mentor, my research adviser and the passionate teacher who inspired me to be a passionate teacher. I followed in his footsteps becoming a Professor in the same field he did, publishing a research paper with him and seeking his advice on a near daily basis.
In my wedding he was the witness to the eternal covenant I made to love and honor and my husband. Not a few people that day remarked on how much the new love of my life resembled the first love of my life.
In the moving van where he helped load the last of my boxes, he told me he’d already signed up for a conference in a few months in my new city and he would take me out to lunch, on his dime, and listen while I gave a non-stop narrative of my life for two days. I stopped sobbing.
In the home we made 1,000 miles away, he came to bless every one of my babies when they were born, even the one who died almost before she lived. I named my first son his grandpa’s middle name.
In our car, he drove halfway across the country when we made yet another large move so that I could fly with the children and save my pregnant self the stress of driving that far with toddlers. Humbled, I remembered that he and my mom had made almost the same move when we were toddlers – but with no help and a station wagon that died in a storm in Wyoming.
In my face he can see the joy that having a daughter of my own has brought into my life. In his face I can see the same, reflected.
To say I am my father’s daughter is an understatement. I have his crooked smile, his nearsightedness, his chin, his “Hilton squint”, his flair for the dramatic and even his pun-y sense of humor. (How do you make a handkerchief dance? You put a little boogie in it!) Someday I hope to have his forgiving heart, cheerful optimism, deep faith and ever willingness to help. Unlike the dark hair and affinity for the piano, these qualities cannot be inherited or even taught, they must be earned. I know this because I’ve watched him over the years as he went from a 21-year-old who fumbled a baby in a parking lot to the man who recently deep cleaned the bathroom that my three boys had firehosed to the point where I couldn’t even walk past it without gagging. Because he loves me that much.
So tomorrow I’m taking him out to lunch, on my dime, and I’m going to listen and hope that he’ll tell me the non-stop narrative of his life. I love you, Dad.
What is your favorite memory of your father?