So since you almost just died before some nice surgeon came along and put a new valve in your aortic artery and bought us all some of that precious commodity we call "time", I think now is a good time to say a bunch of things that I have wanted to say for a long time and need to say, so you know how I feel – because feelings are important! I learned that from you, and from Mr. Rogers. I could get you a card, but this is so much more fun. You might want to grab the tissues now.
When I was small you were the only person I knew for SURE was smarter, stronger and better than me. Because I really thought I was big enough and smart enough to take on the whole world - except you.
You are the biggest presence in my life and have been for as long as I can remember in spite of your being quieter than all the rest of the adults.
Yeah, fine, you’re not a saint. I have always known that – you are wholly human with all the faults and foibles that entails. What I know is this: you are a man of strong convictions. You believe wholly in the rightness of your convictions, and you live them – not just now and then, but daily. You feel the pain of people who suffer, especially of children, and you want to make the world a better place for them and for us all. You are silently (and with reason) proud of most of the things you’ve done in your life, and outwardly very proud of your girls – but rarely to our faces, only to those around us – although I think we find out how you really feel when it matters most.
There was a twinkle in your eye when you found out that I slapped Robbie Mann in the face for kissing me without my permission in second grade, even as you told me not to hit people. When I was supposed to be out of earshot you said “Next time, kick him in the crotch”. When I used the white house paint in the EasyBake oven, I could see the crinkles around your eyes – you even had to turn away and come back to give me a lecture about paint, light bulbs and fire. The way you tell the stories of our babyhoods, like Laurie and her cookies that you dutifully swallowed down – makes my heart so glad that you are my father.
You showed me unconditional love when everyone else around me had given up on me, and I had given up on myself. You believed in me when I didn’t believe in anything. Thank you for holding out and not giving up on the idea that I could be better than I seemed to want to be. Your silent strength is what kept me aware that I was, could be, and deserved better. I think I turned out all right in the end, and if I did it’s probably all your fault – remember that when you contemplate what you’ve done with your life.
Long drives to places I remember and some I have probably forgotten at times when I most needed anyone to just be with me without effort or pain, long talks about what you believed of life and nature and the spiritual, the way you listened to me and my endless rambling and babbling (at which I excel) as I tried to make sense of the world, reading stories at my bedside, tripping through my bedroom from the attic space carrying Christmas morning in your arms, telling me I was dreaming – and I believed you and went back to sleep! – bailing me out of huge scrapes that I was so, so sorry for with grace, humor, love and a gentle “Did you learn anything?” - Who you are has gone into making me who I am. I cannot stop being grateful for that. I screwed up so much as a mother, but what I got right – really, really right – I learned from you.
It’s so beyond what you did or how you did it. It is about your very presence; forever firm and constant, unyielding, unchanging, chastising when necessary, and at the same time ever loving, tolerant and forgiving. If ever on earth I saw God, it was in you and you probably didn’t mean for that to be the outcome. Your presence mimicked the relationship between God and His children, and without it I would not have come to know God (as I have come to know Him). I thank God for you every day.
Daddy's lap was where I went to curl up and suck my thumb and listen to a strong heart beating in my ear, and fall asleep knowing that no matter what happened in the regular day to day of insanity of my life, it would be ok because Daddy had a hold of me.
I am saying this here because it’s worth saying all of this publicly. That one dedication in that first book, that was nice and all. Thank you, more than I can ever say, more than I can ever express, more than I can ever explain for being exactly what and who you were supposed to be. Thank you for being my father.