A CONVERSATION

Father:

Ah, I remember the day you arrived. My third and last daughter. Ten toes, ten fingers, two eyes. I welcomed you with open arms.

Daughter: 

The first time I saw you it was like looking into the sun. You were so tall, and I so small. You steadied me, my tiny hand in your big paw, as I took my first faltering steps. My gaze met your knees, traveled up your legs, past your torso, and for an instant, I saw your face, looking down into mine. Then you looked up, moved your head, and the sun shone directly into my eyes. All I saw was a great ball of radiant light on top of your shoulders. And then as your head once again blocked the sun’s rays, your smile, your eyes returned to me…

Father:

Your eyes so like mine, your teeth like your mother’s, your feet like your grandmother’s. Oh, the plans I had for you. We’d go hunting, swimming, fishing…

Daughter:    

Fishing was the best, Dad. I remember catching bait. You standing in the creek holding a net while I walked toward you, kicking up rocks and mud, herding a school of minnows into your trap.  We tossed them into that steel bucket before heading into deeper waters.   On the musty, brown Unami Creek, the water lapped against the blue-green metal rowboat. We watched bobbers bob as sunnies nibbled the bait at the end of our lines. You wore that crazy fishing vest with all its hooks and flies. We’d sit in silence, your sunglasses mirroring my face, Mom’s wave from the shore, and the giant grey boulders that jutted out of the creek. The smell of tobacco emanating from the corn cob pipe clenched between your teeth…

Father:

Your hair caught up in a giant ponytail, your crooked bangs, your bright green flower-power shirt, cut-off blue jeans, and white Ked sneakers. That year you were missing two front teeth. What a wacky smile. I remember how…

Daughter:

You were always there for me. When Santa frightened me, you caught me up in your arms and held me tight. When Gramma flipped out at me, you told me how hard her life had been, how we needed to try to understand and forgive. When my lacrosse team lost because I’d let too many girls get past me to the goalie, you told me that sometimes we learn more from losing than winning. I remember…

Father:

The plans I had for you. College, perhaps law school. Maybe you’d take after your old man. I remember you liked history. That was my major. And then the days began to fly by and then…

Daughter:

All of a sudden you got so sick. One day you were fixing the toilet at the shore house, a regular chore for a  father of three girls. The next day you were lying in bed, the curtains drawn, a strong man brought down by a stronger disease…cancer…

Father:

That took my life. God help me. You and your sisters seemed so grown up. I’m sorry I never got to say goodbye. I remember the last time I saw you. You were passing by my bedroom door. I’d just dropped my cigarette lighter. Too weak to retrieve it from the floor beside my bed, I called to you. It came out like a whisper. I said, “My lighter…”

Daughter:   

I came into your room. It was the first time I was afraid of you, Daddy. Or perhaps I was afraid of death

that seemed to lurk in the corners of your room, crouching in the shadows, waiting, waiting for you. I

remember picking up your silver lighter with the green trout on it, handing it to you, and you said…

Father:

“Thank you.” Those were my last words to you. Thank you for the joy you brought me…

Daughter:
And the sorrow that entered our lives, broke our hearts. But, Daddy, it was I who should have said, “Thank you,” so I’ll say it now. Thank you, Daddy, for being with me the first sixteen years of my life, for leaving me wonderful memories. I’ve kept your eyes and sense of humor. And I keep a portion of you in my heart, even now, so many years later. No one has ever replaced you. But I pray that every fatherless child will be blessed to encounter others—friends, deacons, neighbors, pastors, husbands, sons—who will provide the comfort, encouragement, friendship, guidance, love, affection they need to help them through.

 

We—who may be young or old, daughter or mother, brother or sister, friend or lover—say “Happy Father’s Day” to the men in our lives. Thank you for being here. Thank you for blessing our lives.

 

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting.… Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.—Ralph Waldo Emerson