On this Father’s Day, I’m thinking of a gift from rather than for my father. When I think about it, though, his gift to my brother, David, and me turned out to be something we continue to give in his memory. It’s a gift he would have loved most of all – the continuation of what he instilled through the daily exercise of his story-telling, his wit and humor, his great humanity toward everyone, and his uncommon bravery. We absorbed all this as a completely natural part of our days.
This was never more evident than on the June day that David was born. Mother was welcoming him on the maternity floor of the hospital while I recuperated from a tonsillectomy in a room on the ground floor. Daddy divided his time, and my grandmothers made sure I had a flower in my hair each day from the huge bouquet Daddy brought. At that time, hospitals were not air-conditioned, and rules limited the number of overnight family members. Daddy stood outside my window, open just enough for me to hear him, and told me Uncle Remus stories in the authentic voice of each character until I fell asleep. I made sure this took a long time. When it probably seemed like an endless “just one more” from me, he launched into my favorite horse stories about the adventures of a girl named Diane and her pony. Happy dreams for me! Before we left the hospital, Daddy told me he had a big surprise for me. That was the day he took me upstairs, threw open a door with a grand gesture, and we saw my smiling mother holding my new brother. Daddy knew how to create an unforgettable moment.
There were special times with Daddy for David and me. We built homemade kites from newspaper comics, and learned to love the ocean. Whether shopping for groceries with him, making homemade ice cream, or doing anything, we had fun. He always shared food with family and neighbors, and always knew exactly how to make them laugh and feel loved. This, and a keen business sense, are traits that David, now a father, mirrors from Dad.
It’s remarkable that, though he didn’t live to see us grown, he was able to give us what every father strives to give his children. He gave us the gift of appreciation for each day, the confidence to believe in ourselves, and the strength that comes from strong family love. These are the building blocks of any life. We are so lucky!