Sometimes when I think of my father–when I think of his twinkling eyes and the stories he’d tell and the songs he’d sing and the amazing way he had of making you feel like you could be more than you ever dreamed you could be–I laugh with the sheer joy of it.

He was only 5’6″ tall with a lifetime of living on his face and the mischievousness of a million pranks in his grin.

He was a teacher and a soccer coach and a geography whiz and a listener and an ice cream eater and a Monopoly marathoner and he could keep you on the edge of your seat with the entire history of the Revolutionary War–told with more drama and intrigue than a million dollar movie.

I asked him once for advice.  I was about to be a parent and I was nervous and overwhelmed and worried I would make mistakes.  I poured out my heart and told him about my fears and asked him how he learned how to be such a great dad.

He paused for a while and thought for a moment and then turned and fixed his eyes on mine with a serious look.

“Don’t worry about making mistakes,” he told me.  “Because you will.  You’ll make mistakes and learn from them and make a few more while you’re learning how to fix the first ones.  The secret is not about making mistakes–it’s about being willing to try and try and try some more.  When you are a parent it’s part of the job.”

He stopped for a moment and then laughed out loud.

“Shhh.  Don’t tell your mother, but I don’t think too much about the hows and whys and whens and ifs of being a parent.  I leave all that to her.” 

Then he grinned at me conspiratorially and added,

“Just between you and me….

….all I really do is show up.”

We spent this last week cleaning out the downstairs bedroom.

My son wanted to move upstairs to a bigger room and I wanted to make the room over into a guest room.

We formed an assembly line and moved basketballs and beds and books and ball caps and most of the furniture up the stairs to his new space.  We decided, however, that his desk would stay downstairs, so we kept it in the room.

When I opened the drawers of the desk to clean it out, I discovered a time capsule of his life.

There were stacks of baseball cards.

And marbles.

And ribbons from spelling bees.

And tiny fighting men and stacks of school papers and old electronic devices and sunglasses and note cards from student council speeches.

Everything and anything he could stuff into that desk, he did.

It took me hours to sort and clean and toss and figure out where everything went.

I was almost done…

….when I discovered something wedged back into the corner of one of the drawers.

It was a rolled-up piece of paper–crinkled and faded and torn and ripped around the edges.

I almost threw it away because I thought it was junk.

But something made me pause.

Slowly and carefully, I painstakingly unrolled that piece of paper…

….and almost cried.

It was a note from my husband.

Written long ago on a birthday or Christmas or some celebration and rolled up and given to my son with words that read:

This is good for 1 hour alone with dad for sports.

And then my husband signed it.

With an expiration date of….never.


That message bounced off the edges of the empty room and resounded in my heart.

Because sometimes when you are a parent that’s all it takes.

Sometimes when you are weary of the trying.

Sometimes when you make mistakes and you think no one is listening and you worry that you aren’t making a difference and that you’ll never get it right.

Just remember.

Sometimes being a parent is really about simply….

…just showing up. 🙂

PS  The handmade game in this post was made for me and given to me this Christmas by one of the other great dads I know, my brother. 🙂

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  1. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Beautiful game and post! Made me teary thinking of my Dad who passed this year..."I just showed up" could have come from his mouth:)

  2. Image for Amy K Amy K

    OK you brought me to tears this morning - in a good way. I lost my Dad 6 years ago. He had been ailing for years so it came as no surprise and I was prepared. Almost too prepared. I was so prepared I had guilt about it afterwards and sometimes still do. I was an only child and my Dad was my playmate when I was young right up through my teens. He was a huge help with my own children and losing him was probably harder for them than it was for me. I was so wrapped up in his caregiving that I forgot to feel it. After all this time, I'm finally doing some grieving. That probably sounds silly but it's the truth. I was sitting at my desk this morning actually thinking of him and your email came. It made me smile. I miss my Dad these days, but I will see him again one day. Thanks for a wonderful story.

  3. Image for Nan, Odessa, DE Nan, Odessa, DE

    OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Use your many talents and your husband's to protect and secure this gift so it expires Never. Your are such a story teller and so kind to your brother. Yes, you are a blessing!

  4. Image for Sherry Fisher Sherry Fisher

    Oh Karianne, so much love...And your husband sounds so much like your Dad. Two gems. Looking forward to seeing the new rooms :)

  5. Image for Ange Ange

    We lost my dearest friend and my sons' hero and father eleven months ago. I would love to come across such a wonderful, little scrap of paper. Such a treasure!

  6. Image for Roxie Hardin Roxie Hardin

    Touched my heart today as I read all those kind words.Kind tender words are what our family deserves to hear Love the game board.

  7. Image for Ellen Ellen

    A perfectly wonderful story of two perfectly wonderful Dads told by one perfectly wonderful storyteller!! My own Dad told me almost that very same thing when I was expecting my first child and I passed it along to my daughter when she was expecting my Grandson. Your stories about your Dad often remind me of my Dad, I think they may have been cut from the same cloth. Thank-you for this delightful post, tears and smiles both! P.S. The game made by your talented Brother is a treasure!

  8. Image for Leslie Leslie

    Priceless! An amazing gift of time with no expiration. Love it. And that amazing game ranks pretty high, too. Add both to the treasure pile when you sort for the next organization...

  9. Image for Summer Summer

    I just love this! Sometimes I get so wrapped up in teaching them what I feel they need to know, that I forget to just "be" with them. What a great reminder! Thank you!

  10. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    What a touching story! And my hat goes off to the thousands of women who've had to raise their kids on their own, but a good dad - one who shows up - makes it so much easier and better. Big hugs, my friend. Let us know how he likes his new room :-)

  11. Image for Jacqui Jacqui

    You made me cry again, lovely story! You are a gifted story teller. I was moved because yesterday my daughter shared a concern about her son. I did not have a solution for her no matter how much I wanted to solve it and protect her, my beautiful child. All I could say was quide him lovingly, he is finding his way. Tearing up again....Enjoy your blog as always, have a fabulous day!

  12. Image for Peg Peg

    Your Dad's advice is SO, SO true. Each new day is an opportunity to do a little better than the day before. LOVE this post and LOVE the game board. A fav of mine!!!

  13. Image for Denise Jones Denise Jones

    I have learned we are one half of the parent/child relationship. We both need to give and take, love and forgive as we grow together. The best gift is love and forgiveness, going both ways. My oldest daughter due to her husband has stopped all contact with me, which also means my grandchildren. I say to all, never hold on to hatred, family should always be, "I'm here for you".

  14. Image for Terri Terri

    My heart is melting... My eyes are cloudy..... I need a Kleenex.. a hankie.... Seriously KariAnne... I hope you are still working on that book thing for one day............... and I hope it's full of true life stories like this one !!! What words of wisdom from your Dad ... and then that note??? REALLY??? Sniff... Sniff !!!!!

  15. Image for Loryl Loryl

    I lost my Dad 30 years ago but have been thinking of him a lot this past week after finding a bag while cleaning my basement. In it were cards and funeral flower announcements from people in attendance. I kept a few that captured his spirit. His was a life well lived. Your story touched my heart and made me cry. One of your BEST!

  16. Image for Ann Coombe Ann Coombe

    KariAnne.....I absolutely loved this blog post! Thank you for bringing tears of joy! You do have an amazing way of communicating! Thank you....thank you!


    KariAnne, what a lovely post! Your Dad was a dear soul and your brother sounds like he is following in your Dad's footsteps. It is such a blessing to be a part of a loving family! I thank God everyday for the wonderful family He gave me! Then, your husband is pretty wonderful too! That note is so special! I think it deserves to have a frame and hung in your son's room! How nice that would be for him to have and remind him of his dear and precious Dad! Bless you all! Have a great day and thanks for sharing such a beautiful post!

  18. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Another sweet story, KariAnne. Made me cry. I remember cleaning my kids rooms and the sweet stuff they had held onto. It's fun now to listen to them talk about growing up and hearing what meant the most to them. And it is usually the showing up , the being there things. Thanks for sharing your sweet story. Hope your week is going well. Hugs Cecilia

  19. Image for Linda Linda

    What a beautiful story and tribute to your father and your husband. I did not have a close family growing up....still makes me sad. My husband and best friend passed away three years ago and one of my beloved Golden Retriever dogs passed away this passed weekend. So sad and heart broken but I will see them again, my husband and all of our pets in Heaven and I think it will be soon.

  20. Image for Rebecca Turner Rebecca Turner

    Even grandparents can use this kind of reminder. On a cool wet day today, after a night of continuous rain, and training storms, I risked flooded streets, swollen bayous, two burgeoning creeks and a river, to drive twelve miles. All to deliver a forgotten lunch and some pain reliever to my granddaughter in middle school. It seemed important to just show up. Smiles! Thanks for sharing your sweet story!

  21. Image for Joanne B. Joanne B.

    Beautiful story and your brother is a wood worker extraordinaire. And if he is as good a dad as you say, it sounds like he learned from the best. And they say we marry our fathers-looks like you did that too. Nice heart warming story today to make us all take a breath and be thankful for what we have.

  22. Image for Pam H. Pam H.

    I enjoy your blog so much but never more than the days you tell "your" stories. Thank you for sharing your heart and your wonderful family, i never get tired of hearing them.

  23. Image for Denise Cox Denise Cox

    How lovely, Karianne! The stories you always share with us are always so heartwarming. You are so blessed to have such a wonderful family... and to have had such a great Dad! Thank-you for sharing with us... Denise

  24. Image for Sue Sue

    Your family doesn't just make gifts, they make works of art from the heart, just like all of your stories, love them.

  25. Image for Megan W Megan W

    Oh Karianne, it dawned on me as I read your eloquent post today that you, my dear, have done what so few have done....and with such success....You are the author of a blog that seamlessly weaves words to ponder and scrapbook pages of life through the guidelines of tablescaping, home decor and anything else you might find along your pebbled path. So lovely, truly lovely. Thank you for being brilliantly fresh!

  26. Image for Shelley Summerville Shelley Summerville

    You could have warned me that I would need tissues!! ? What a precious story! I am in the midst of raising 3 daughters and my middle one especially is a total quality time girl- that's her love language. We've been talking recently and just being there is so important to her. I love this and pray that I will continue to be able to offer my time, with no expiration date. ? Thank you for sharing!

  27. Image for Lisa Walters Lisa Walters

    I do love this story! It took me back, back to a very familiar place my mind hasn't been for awhile ! My one son now 26.... ohhhh my his desk, what a hot mess it was! He saved it ALL, everything! Marbles, broken pieces to hobby car kits, notes, wrappers? His little batman guys, little motorcycles you name it! It used to drive me crazzzy because I wanted order... I'd give anything to be back at that desk, sorting, smiling at all the things that he saved, you know the important stuff!!! And like you said just "show up" Thanks so much for making me smile today!!!? Lisa

  28. Image for gail gail

    How do I know a good story when I read one? It makes me cry. It's the old addage any man can be a father... In my life, I haven't had the opportunity to see that yet-not with my father, and not with the father of my daughter. I'm hoping my son-in-law breaks that curse all to pieces! thanks for sharing! gail

  29. Image for Lanita Anderson Lanita Anderson

    What a great story....of both your Dad and the note your husband wrote for your son! Love your handmade Christmas gift, too! :)

  30. Image for Stephanie Wethington Stephanie Wethington

    I love your blog!! I so enjoy each one but I do believe this one is my favorite. How fortunate for you to have an amazing Dad and Husband. You are a very special storyteller. Thank you for sharing and your inspiration!! xo

  31. Image for Angie M Angie M

    Yours is such a talented and special family. My heart melted over that sweet note and then you tell us your brother made that lovely game. Wow! Special I tell you.

  32. Image for Barbara Moore Barbara Moore

    What a wonderful post. What a wonderful family. Happy you dug a little deeper into that drawer.... that's where the real treasures are found!

  33. Image for Mills Mills

    It never always bring tears to my eyes with your posts. You write so beautifully, you really, really should look into know as a side-job in your spare (boo-wah-ha-ha) time. Seriously, though, your writing is another gift you have that we your readers are grateful you share with us.

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