If I could give all I knew one present for Christmas it would be an itty-bitty piece of my father. I suppose many daughters think this about their own. The lucky ones. Mine is like no other man I’ve ever met or known before.
My grandmother waited 36 years before delivering her, “only begotten son” on a snowy Christmas dusk. It was near the bay of Michigan during the year of 1932. Five older sisters awaited his arrival, while an older angelic brother looked down from Heaven above. A younger sister of blonde and a baby brother lost were born during years shortly afterward. My father was always the only brother, his parent’s only son.
A humble man who has the kindest soul, my father is always loyal and true. He’s taught me subtle, wise lessons in life. As a young girl, I watched his gentle mannerisms while listening to his quiet words, soaking up hushed teachings like a dry sponge dropped in a Michigan millpond. One of my father’s most repeated lessons was, “”Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Akin to the Bible, I guess. It has stayed with me forever and always. Shortly after my own two boys learned their first few words, I passed it down to them together with tender hugs and kisses. They are having their own little ones, now. If the cycle continues it will be a lesson for their children as well. It is the most important one of all.
Of course there were other teachings to be learned. Important mental notes written in imaginary pencil from my father for me to follow. Like, “How to live life with a positive attitude in spite of adversity,” or “To smile when your heart hurts,” and, “It’s okay to cry.”
Once, when one of my sons was very young and very ill, I called my father in Arizona all the way from St. Louis. Choking back tears I remember saying, “Dad, I don’t think I’m going to have him very long.” He paused for a few seconds before finding the right words. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but together with his quiet tone, my father calmed me down. I hold that single moment deep down inside of me. Today, it is here within the whole of my chest…near the inside of my heart where it will stay for all eternity.
My father has taught me lessons my whole life through. We are both older now. It seems he is my guide and advisor only if I ask him to be. We value our time together more than ever before. Like children on a playground who have been friends all of their lives or even before, we laugh and play. Sometimes we swing on a rubber tire hanging from an old frayed, cream-colored rope. Like babes again, feeling our heads dangling in the wind! Other days we walk slowly along a new path, discovering speckled rocks to help us find our way.
Last night, me and my father sat in a puffy, padded booth on a western patio. Surrounding us was the warmth of a golden desert sun setting deep into cocoa sand of a saguaro cactus land. We talked for hours about nothing, telling stories while sharing jokes. I sipped red wine from a glass of clear. He drank more. Older teeth opened wide revealing burgundy red. I giggled, he laughed. A head of thick hair…now grey, tossed back…like always…
“That’s my father,” I whispered aloud, to no one except coyotes hidden in the distance of the desert there.