The memory of my father is wrapped up in
white paper, like sandwiches taken for a day at work.
Just as a magician takes towers and rabbits
out of his hat, he drew love from his small body,
and the rivers of his hands
overflowed with good deeds.
My dad’s 60th birthday is in 2 days, and I have been wracking my brain with something to give him to show him just how much he means to me. What do you give the guy who laid his life down for the sake of his family, who has sacrificed all and given all for all of our benefit? I just don’t think a Starbucks card says it all.
My dad worked a lot. A lot. And now that it is years later, he tells me how much he regrets that, how much he feels he missed out on in our lives. The thing is, I don’t quite remember it that way. First of all, my dad’s office was as my grandma’s house. So all of us kids would pile into Dad’s car and go to Grandma’s house with him, and even get to help him paste pictures on his Appraisal reports. When my dad had to travel the county for work, he would take all of us with him. I always loved it, seeing other people’s homes that I never would have seen before. My favorite was when he took us to Sonoma. I always looked at it that we got to go to the park and feed the ducks, have a picnic with food from the Sonoma Cheese Factory, and play on the playground. I did not realize that my dad missed us so much that he would drive us to Sonoma where he was working, do his job, then come back to the park to be with us.
On the weekends, my dad took us to the dumps every now and then. I know, the dumps is not exactly the place for fun. But there was something about it. Here’s this huge cliff that looks down into a mountain of garbage. It was fascinating! There are seagulls flying all around, garbage everywhere. There’s this huge tractor moving things around. I don’t remember if it smelled bad, I imagine that it did. It was awesome. It was time with my dad, doing things outside the norm for a daughter.
Then there were the races. My dad took us to Sears Raceway a couple times. We had this van, it was called the “Leisure Van”. It was called that because “Leisure Van” was written over a brown stripe on each side. It was pretty retro. I imagine in it’s day, it was the next best thing to having an RV. It used to have a sink in it, though I don’t remember it ever having running water. And it had plugs in it that we could plug stuff into it, like a radio. It also had a great roof on it with a ladder leading up to it. It was perfect for sitting upon for lounging on (I guess you could say we were “liesuring”, to add a Crissi-ism), such as watching races at the racetrack. And if we didn’t stand, it barely creaked or dented. My dad would let us all climb on top and watch the races from up there.
There was this one time that our whole family was at my house for some get together. Some of my family live far away, so it was a big deal when all of us could get together. My dad wanted to get a picture of all us cousins. And the sun was fading fast. I wanted to go inside to get a sweater, and my dad wouldn’t let me because any minute it would have been too dark to take a good picture. He had all of us stand in a line, from tallest to shortest. And we were instructed to smile. I wouldn’t. My dad yelled at me to get a smile on my face or he would give me something to cry about. So I smiled. But right before the picture was taken, I put that frown back on my face to teach him a lesson. Thanks to digital cameras not being invented yet, they didn’t discover my frowny face until they had the film developed. Oh man, did I catch hell for that one!
When I got to high school, I was a difficult teenager, to say the least. My dad and I clashed on more than one occasion. Much more than one. But in those years, I also developed an appreciation for coffee. And I began to get up early in the morning to enjoy a good cup with the morning paper. My dad was an early riser, too. This became our time. And some of our best talks came out of this time. It was when we connected in a time when we barely could connect.
Later on, I did the whole move out, move in, move out, move in, etc. game. Each time, my parents welcomed me in. The first time, I came home pregnant. My dad couldn’t speak to me for several days. But through time, he let me know how much he loved me, and cared for me. Each time I messed up, his love shone along with his disappointment. I later came to understand that he wasn’t so much disappointed in who I was being, but in who I WASN’T being.
There’s this scripture (Mt. 14:28-31) that talks about Jesus walking on the water. Peter jumped out of the boat, because he wants to be like Jesus. But his faithlessness causes him to start to sink, and he cries out to Jesus. ‘Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”‘ (Mt. 14:31) Jesus saw his potential. He calls him on his faithlessness, not because Peter failed at the action, but because Peter failed to see his own full potential.
My dad was like this. He knew I was more than how I was living.
This last time I moved back home, I did not ask to come home. I already knew that my dad had done so much for me, because of the mistakes I had brought upon myself. I could not ask him to bail me out one more time. But I was miserable. I was desperately in need. And my dad saw this. And he saw me weakly holding onto my pride. Over coffee one morning, he told me that if I ever needed to come home, to let him know and it would be done. His words were, “Just tell me when the light is green, and we’ll go”. I called him later that afternoon, and was back home, for good, that same week.
My dad calls me his prodigal daughter (Luke 15:11-32). The story of the prodigal son has become my favorite. I was once lost, and then I was found. And when I came home, rather than hold my sins against me, I was cherished and celebrated. I was loved. During that time, while I mourned my old life and prepared for the new, my dad became my children’s surrogate dad. All the things he used to do with me, he now did with my own children. He took them under his wing and loved them as he loved us kids.
My dad has sacrificed for all of us. It means so much to me to know that my dad has dedicated his life so willingly and lovingly for me, for his family, for my family. He has taught me so many life skills in my life, and it has finally sunk in these last two years I have been under his wing. He’s always available for a heart to heart. He lives his life according to “what Jesus would do”. His life speaks more volume than any church I’ve ever stepped inside.
So what do you give a man who has given so much? I don’t have enough to show my love and appreciation. All I have are my words, given from the heart. So this post is my small way of saying, I love you Dad. You are my example of a true man. It is because of you that I am who I am today.
And alright, I’m throwing in a coffee date, too.