Today marked my first Father’s Day without my dad. I admit that most of my sentiment today has been just get to bedtime so the day can be over. But tomorrow marks my dad’s 68th birthday and the first one he’s celebrating in Heaven, and also a trip to the dentist with all.five.kids. So there’s not too much light at the end of this 48 hour tunnel. Walking through Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday back-to-back has found me, oh, let’s just say not at my emotional best. To quote Ron Burgundy from Anchorman, I’ve basically been in a glass cage of emotion.
*I just paused for an unusual length of time as I pondered if using humor to talk about my dad’s absence is appropriate. And then I remembered who I was writing about- my dad! The king of humor and jokes and lightening the mood. And that made me smile.
What also made me smile today was 2 gifts of sympathy given by my kids. I had told them I needed to be alone with my sadness for a few minutes and excused myself to my bedroom. Soon after, there was a knock on the door and in marched 4-year old Judah holding this mango behind his back with the proud explanation: I made you a stuffed animal.
A minute later, 8-year old Sam marched in with what he called a ‘chip-scented candle’.
That would be a tea lite taped to a (flammable) Pringles container. So truly tears of sadness and joy intermingled today on this Father’s Day.
I got a lot from my dad- a love of parties and pranks and a good joke. A love for water and road trips and singing. A sense of humor, a sense of optimism, a sense of adventure. And mostly, a love for kids.
My dad loved kids. He was a kid himself. No matter what age I found myself, my dad was there as a playmate. My friends loved having him around and looked to him for all sorts of adventures. Most of my childhood pictures have him at the helm, and most of my friends’ reminiscings involve my dad.
He was the one who drove us around in the van, pulled us water skiing and tubing, woke up before the sun to take us to the mountains for a day of snowboarding, pulled us out of school just to go out for lunch; he was the one who played hide and seek with us, and basketball, and monopoly, and mafia, and poker until the sun set and then rose back up again.
In some ways, I think being a dad gave him another chance at being a kid. His parents divorced when he was seven, and in a very few, very meaningful conversations, he shared how painful it was to find himself essentially fatherless at such a young age.
As a kid I remember being glad my dad was ‘fun’ and ‘available’, but it wasn’t until I watched him become a grandfather that I understood just how special his love for children was.
He was so incredibly patient and kind and fun. He admired all the ways his grandkids were growing and he took genuine interest in them. He would play for hours and hours with them; he never seemed to run out of steam. He loved hearing about what they were learning as we homeschooled, and he and my mom even started memorizing their schoolwork alongside them (namely, a 13 minute song chronicling the history of the world from Creation to Current Events!)
The other night my son, Sam, was asking me to recite the tongue twisters Papa always shared. I couldn’t. I totally blanked, and then I totally cried because I couldn’t remember them. And then I woke up at 2am with them rolling off my tongue:
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper, Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper, Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper
A skunk sat on a stump. The skunk thunk that the stump stunk, but the stump thunk that the skunk stunk.
This morning, Micah and I sat on our back porch, where we found ourselves once again revisiting a topic that seems to be swirling around us these days: is there a way we can help other children in need? This has most definitely been a thought that has been seeking us out, and not one that I was initially very eager to entertain. In fact, when this question first made it’s way to me, my knee-jerk response was NO WAY! But I’ve allowed myself to sit with the possibility of being a family that helps other children in some capacity. I’ve been thinking about what we might have to offer, and what our individual and family strengths are. And I’ve been thinking about my dad. His own loss of a parent at a young age. His love for kids. His sense of optimism and adventure and fun and how he passed these traits on to me. And how I married a man who also shares this spirit of adventure and hope and a desire to contribute to the healing of the world in whatever way we can.
So I suppose this is what they mean when they say he lives on in you. My dad most definitely lives on. Not only in my memories, but in my parenting. In the sense of adventure, and road trips, and riddles, and singing. And in the desire to bring hope and healing and happiness to other children in need, as well.
My dad, doing his thing, in an orphanage in Haiti: