Monday, June 22, 2009

To Those Who Do the Heavy Lifting

Dad, I have a confession. Remember all those road trips or all-day shopping trips when we would get home after dark and I'd be asleep in the backseat? You'd scoop me up, carry me upstairs, and tuck me in bed. Well, I was only asleep half the time. The rest of the time, I'd lean my head over and clamp my eyes shut right when we got into town and stay as still as I could. What can I say? Sinking into you as you lugged me up the stairs felt like a warm extended hug. I couldn't think of a better way to settle into bed. I probably owe you a trip to the chiropractor.

My parents worked hard and did without certain things because they wanted to provide for my sisters and I. Our pantry had an abundance of snacks for us and whatever neighbors might be over to play; I always had the athletic shoes I needed (even when I decided to play four sports a year); I was even given the money to attend basketball camp each summer (sorry about your return on investment there, guys); and college, well, according to my Dad, I was going and that was final.

I appreciated those things, and as a parent now making decisions about what things we should give up in order to enable us to give others, I appreciate them even more. But the biggest advantages Dad gave me never came from his wallet. He coached our softball and soccer teams, and showed up at every track meet. He was the first man to show me what it looks like when a guy feels you are worth his time. At dinner, he asked about the school day, or sports practice, or choral auditions. He was the first man to show me what it looks like when a guy is genuinely interested in you. And after dinner, when he watched tv, he would leave a small space at the back of his chair just big enough for me to squeeze into. He was the first man to show me that when a guy loves you, he will always make room for you. So while the stocked pantry was nice, when it came time to head out and find someone to build my own pantry with, these other provisions fed me a little more.

I snapped the shot above last night as Jason carried Audrey up to bed (of course, as soon as she heard the camera click, Audrey's head popped up and I decided that bedtime might not be the best time to take pictures). She likes those extended hugs, too. Jason is always willing to stop what he's doing to give them. And last night, like so many nights, as I watched Jason carry her upstairs, I thought of how lucky she is to have a provider in every sense: someone who not only buys the books, but reads them to her. Our Father's Day was a simple one. One that probably did not do Audrey's father justice, but one that perfectly exemplifies who he is. Jason volunteered his Father's Day to help a friend install some laminate flooring. Audrey and I spent the afternoon at the zoo visiting with the other man's wife and son. When we got back, per the Dads' requests, we ordered a pizza for dinner. I thought of the lessons Jason is already teaching Audrey: no day is ever too special to keep you from helping your neighbor; and the elegance of the food isn't nearly as important as the company with which you eat it.

I hope your Father's Day was as meaningful as ours. And, for all of you fathers who give and give and give, and then get out your wallets, I thank you (just in case your little boy or girl forgot).

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