Today is my 42nd birthday. It seems strange to me, because the years really are going by faster, and I am now older than I ever thought I would be. I feel so young in my mind (but definitely not in my knees!). I still have hope every morning, the way I did as a kid. I still feel like the best is yet to come…but I’m not sure what that is. I am much more grateful for each birthday now, as I feel the press of old age on one side, and the distancing from my childhood on the other.
Today is also Father’s Day. I lost my Dad 12 years ago, exactly ten years (almost to the day) my Mom passed away. My Dad fought like a lion to stay alive, but couldn’t. Before he died, our relationship had hit a rocky bit, but thankfully, somehow, through grace and the maturity to let go of anger, I only remember the great Dad I had and the years we had together as a family. My Dad taught me so many of the life skills that I am thankful for every day. I realize now, that I was lucky to have this man in my life. Sometimes he could be hard, but he never stopped teaching me important lessons.
Little lessons that have stuck with me through the years.
I wish I had listened to him more. I really do.
He was a smart man, a good man, an honest man. He had integrity. He taught me what love looks like in the way he loved my Mom.
He taught me how to drive.
How to shoot a gun.
How to catch a Walleye.
How to train a dog.
How to ski.
How to ride a bike.
How to change a tire.
How to use a saw.
How to drive a boat.
How to plant a garden.
How to bbq, and mow a lawn.
How to sail.
How to saddle a horse.
How to hit a nail.
How to build a great fire.
How to bake Christmas bread.
He never complained about hard work. He was always thankful for his career. He was humble, thrifty and freakishly intelligent. He taught me to trust good people and have faith. To help people. And to hit the day running.
He worked really, really hard. Too hard, like so many men from that generation.
About a month ago, my husband brought a little orange tree home. It was just like the orange tree my Dad had in his office when I was a kid. I used to love going to work on Saturdays with him. He would let me use the photocopier and pick one orange from his office tree. They were tiny and bitter – more like a lemon than an orange. But I loved them.
I still remember the smell of the orange, mixed with Old Spice and office supplies. I would draw, while my Dad would work on some construction draft. He would whistle softly, and shake his knee. Like he always did…
I kept this memory to myself. Didn’t tell my husband or sons about the orange tree. Some memories are so special they don’t need to be thinned out through sharing.
But today, on my 42nd birthday, my husband was so excited – he had a surprise for me. He ran out to the deck and came in smiling, with a tiny orange in his hand.
Try it! He beamed…
I took the tiny orange in my hand and pressed it to my nose, and in a wave, my Dad was with me, sitting in the room with my husband and my three sons.
I could barely breath. As I peeled the orange and tasted it’s bitterness, he was right there with me. My heart spoke to his…
I know you are here Dad. I won’t forget what you taught me. Thanks for the oranges, and the love, and the sacrifices. Thanks for loving us, and loving Mom.
Thank you for everything. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.