When I was five, my sister was born at St. Mary’s Hospital, where under no circumstances could children visit on the maternity floor. But my father wrapped me up in his coat, suggested I be very quiet and we walked into the hospital and into my mother’s room. My memory tells me we just made it, until one of the nuns caught us and made Dad take me out. We went outside and looked up at Mom’s room to see her holding my sister, but the memory was more of the exhilaration I felt that Dad would wrap me up in a secret scheme.
Not long after, with my sister a few weeks old, my mother was fixing supper, Dad was holding the baby and he and I were watching our black and white TV. I can still see the “fuzz” as the television went out and I told my father, “I’m scared.” As the hail pounded our small home and the wind blew outside, Dad got me on the floor under a coffee table and pulled in next to me, still holding my sister. He yelled to my mother to get down and when the sliding glass windows burst, she just made it in our safe space as the tornado hit. I remember feeling nervous and perhaps a bit scared, but most of all, I felt that moment that every little girl experiences when she knows her daddy is protecting her. I felt safe in the midst of chaos.
When he was an assistant athletic director at a university, he took me one weekend to jump on the university’s trampoline. Sadly the doors were locked and he didn’t have the key, but I really didn’t care. MY dad took me with him….and it didn’t really matter what we did.
I remember him in his IBM white shirt and suit, I remember trips to Florida with Dad singing Jim Croce and Neil Diamond, I remember building a new house in Memphis that we would never see finished (because he got another promotion and a move), I remember him mowing the lawn, trying to install a washing machine and sending me outside to wait for the plumber as the house began to flood. I remember him riding on a roller coaster with me and grabbing for a postcard that had flown out of my grasp, just as we crested the top. I remember him being the center of every party my parents had and I remember the news media seeking him out during the NCAA basketball Big Eight Championships.
He always has a joke, my father. My friend Carol from high school swore my dad should be on the Johnny Carson show. He is an excellent businessman, a loving son and family man, a wonderful grandfather and a loyal and dedicated husband.
And one of my most special times with him was a weekend in Kansas City, where we talked, really talked, and I struggled so hard to find the ability to simply tell him, “I love you.”
While I was living in Boston, a doctor diagnosed me with lupus and told me there was really no known cause nor was there a cure. So when I woke up one day without the ability to move my fingers or wrists or ankles, my parents drove partway to meet me and took me to Yale’s Medical Center. I wanted to ride with my Dad, because I needed his strength and his reassurance that everything would be okay…. And it is.
Dad was a disciplinarian, and Mom had a different way of wanting to raise children…and I was the first born. And I was sensitive and emotional and at some point during my life, Dad and I were on a different wavelength.
Sometimes I can’t see pictures of Dad in my mind’s eye and it worries me. I struggle to think of places and situations and I can often “see” the moments in time, but I can’t see Dad.
But it’s not because he isn’t there. He’s in every memory.
It’s because Dad is a PRESENCE. He’s bigger, sometimes than one picture.
He’s the umbrella that arches over the memory and holds the people underneath it together.
I don’t have a thing to give my father for this Father’s Day. I simply can’t think of anything that he’d want or need. So I only have words, and even those are probably not good enough to express my love for him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You are loved very much!