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 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.
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. 🙂