My dad always walked a little fast. He always apologized for it, but I never minded. I had no trouble keeping up with him. (He also went a little fast on the interstate, but that’s another whole story better left untold.) If we went somewhere, he usually knew exactly where we were going, or so I thought. Looking back I think the child in me just thought he must know where he was going or he wouldn’t be leading me there as well. Now that I’m an adult and a mom, I know the real truth. Even when we think we know where we are going, we rarely do.
He liked to ruin the end of television shows if he knew it was past my bedtime. He probably felt like I deserved it. I laugh now, but at the time it didn’t seem so funny. He would walk into the living room and take one look at the screen and say, “Oh yeah, this is the one where the UPS man made it look like it was the husband.” Then he’d walk back out knowing I would just turn the television off exasperatedly and go to bed. I’m older now and possibly wiser. I’m now considering the possibility that MAYBE the UPS man didn’t do it. MAYBE Dad just wanted me to go to bed.
My dad would stay up until I got home even when I was an adult. If I rolled in at 10 p.m., he would turn off the television and head to bed. If I walked in the door at midnight, the same thing happened. He wanted to make sure I was safe. I thought he was being ridiculous. He likely went through a lot of Pepsi and ice cream waiting on me. My child will be able to drive soon, and I have to say I have reversed my position on this being ridiculous.
He served in church as whatever was needed. I have seen him take up offering, drive his whole family to Christmas play practice without grumbling, be a children’s pastor with my mother, or run the sound board at a lady’s ministry conference. He was equally gifted with puppets and being Joseph in a Christmas play with no prior notice (and didn’t laugh when Big Bird ended up being Baby Jesus when the real Baby Jesus had enough). He drove me to the gas station to get snacks during church when my blood sugar was low. When I decided I had to go to youth group the day I got my wisdom teeth out, he carried me back to the car and took me home when the meds kicked in.
I made him mad a few times, and dad was a redhead. He had a temper. Once, I made a fort out of every railroad tie that was being used for landscaping. My brother and I were seated inside our life-size Lincoln Log cabin chilling out playing some D.C. Talk on the portable cassette player when he asked us what in the world we thought we were doing. Playing, Dad. Duh. On a different occasion I did a logical thing by placing dish soap in the dishwasher when we ran out of dishwasher soap. I flooded the basement. When I was in elementary school, I got a Cricket doll. I played a song outside his door on Saturday mornings so he’d wake up. I couldn’t wait to see him. He would have liked for me to wait until 8 a.m. at least. Oops.
He taught me a lot. In my 21 years with him I patched sheetrock, mixed concrete, painted, raked, mowed the grass (almost ran him over), planted flowers, planted trees, and trimmed hedges. He taught me to drive by yelling the word “mailbox” at the top of his lungs when he felt like I was too close. He taught me to fish, although, that ended up being a fiasco with a pregnant catfish. Because of him I know how to put up a tent, and the one we put up lived on my top bunk for at least a year after that.
He picked me up off a floor heater when I was a baby and made me feel safe, even though I felt like the world was ending. He was with me at the hospital when they used the biggest needle I had ever seen. He stopped by to check on me during the day when I had the World’s Worst Stomach Bug when I was 7. He carried me when I had mono. He bought me a jacket when I sunburned myself at the beach. He offered me Alka Seltzer for what ailed me, but knew I’d never take it because that stuff makes me puke.
His thoughtfulness knew no bounds. He was always fixing VCRs or DVD players for our relatives. He has put down his fork at dinner and driven across town when his mother-in-law forgot how to use her remote control. He took a church member to the food bank regularly. Dad remembered when I mentioned I wanted flannel sheets, and I got them for Christmas. On my 21st birthday he made me my favorite kind of cake and let me cut it while it was warm and uniced. That is still my favorite birthday memory.
Once you leave home, you spend your whole life trying to figure out how to get back there. It’s impossible; trust me. My dad was special. So incredibly special. I’m so sad my kids never got to meet him. I’m sad I can’t call him up and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. I know I’ll see him again one day when we get where we are going.
He just always walked a little faster than most people.