When I close my eyes, I can see him there-his hair a little fuller, a little blacker. The twinkle in his eyes remains the same as he urges me along the length of the pool, showing me how to trust myself in the water.
I close my eyes and it's 1980-something and my dad is patient in the garden as I eat all his cherry tomatoes. "I planted those just for you," he tells me, and I believe in my heart that of my four siblings, it's me he loves best. I'm sure we all felt that way.
I can close my eyes and can see all these memories of my dad-from cold nights sitting next to him in the garage as he frankensteins one old car into another, to reading the Lorax to him as he dozes off, exhausted from work at the steel mill, to the week after I gave birth to my second son. Bedridden, I peek out my window and he is there, cutting my grass, showing up with barrels of compost for our garden, because that's the kind of guy he is.
I look back on my life of memories with this man, and they are all good, warm memories.
I open my eyes and my own children are perched expectantly at the edge of the pool. There's so much I learned from him that I want to lock away in them, where it's safe, where it can live on for that much longer. My dad is a special man. Many people can say how great their dad is, and that's fine. But my dad truly is an exceptional human, and an exceptional father. My life stays grounded by a small handful of things, and my father is one of them. I am in debt to this man who lives his life with such grace, compassion, service, kindness, and humor. I am also in debt to my beautiful mother, for being in the right place at the right time and choosing my dad.
I see so much beauty in this life. I see so much joy. I see so much hope because my dad taught me to. He is a rock.
I love you, daddy. Happy Father's Day. (Mom-could you make sure dad sees this?)