Like so many others on this Father’s Day, I’m thinking of my dad. His birthday is in just a few days, so this is a time when he’s especially on my mind. I guess the feeling I am most filled with when reflecting on my dad is gratitude. I’m grateful for so much – his steadfast support of my siblings and me, his love for my mom, his endless quest to make a nice home for us kids (now all “grown-up” and moved out) to return to. The way he smiles so big every time he sees me, no matter how long the interim absence has been, and pulls me in for a hug with the same greeting: “Alli-Walli!”
Dad, I’m thankful that, twenty spring-times ago, you built me a “secret garden” in our backyard. You told me that it was a place for me to escape to when my brothers were being pests. You told me that it would be a retreat for me some day when I brought a boy home and those same brothers were still being pests. I’ve since brought that boy home, and you and I danced in that same backyard on my wedding night, just feet from my secret garden. You cried and told me that I would never understand how much you loved me, and so did I. We danced to “What a Wonderful World” because you love that song and have always taught us kids to look for the wonderful in the world. You always remind us that life is beautiful and that we have a right and obligation to cherish its beautiful moments.
I see you now, Dad, a kind and generous man. I see you, tears in your eyes, as you read us the Polar Express each year on Christmas Eve. I see you, your bare feet dangling off the edge of the bed as Owen and I sneak into your sunny bedroom and wake you up by tickling your toes, insisting that you wake up and play with us. I see you biting into a sponge on April Fool’s Day because I tricked you with “sponge cake.” I see you, sunburned and relaxed, on the farm upstate. You’re dressed in dingy dungarees and a t-shirt with vague stains of bacon grease and red wine, burning your marshmallow in the campfire. I see you, lingering at the doorway, refusing to leave for work until I say, eyes rolling because I’m nine years old and too old for this daily ritual, “Good luck, Daddy.” I see you insisting, even to this day, that Santa Claus exists. I see you at the office we worked in together- you are in a suit, formal and knowledgeable and authoritative. When you speak you are self-deprecating, but everyone in the room listens. And then, in that same office, just hours later after your last meeting is done, you’re walking around in your socks, calling out to ask if anyone wants to open a bottle of wine. I see you sneaking into the tent at my college reunion, having left your own Class’ courtyard to see if my party was better than yours. I see you answering my question of “Dad, what do you want for Christmas?” the same exact way, every single year. “I just want for you to be happy.”
I see you, bringing me to “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” each year and telling me that, some day, I will be able to do whatever it is that I want to do. And then, years later, I see you, sitting across from me at dinner on the night I told you that I wanted to quit my stable, safe job and become a writer. I see you smiling, telling me that I could do it. That I had to do it.
I see you in myself sometimes, too. I’m left-handed, like you. I’m painfully sentimental, just like you. You told me that I’ve inherited your legs and feet. I’ve also inherited your propensity for random patches of dry skin, your love for foreign languages and history and Yale and Tolkien. The glimmers of you in me make me proud, Dad.
I see you – loving father, cuddly grandfather, devoted husband, lover of dogs and the outdoors and fixer-upper houses. I see you, and I also see that a huge part of the reason why it is in fact a wonderful world is because you are my dad.
Happy Father’s Day, all.