In the back of this room, right below the bookshelf, underneath the slate countertop on the right-hand side of the built-in…

….there is a secret cabinet.

Just walk towards the BEACH sign and turn left.

You’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there.

It’s tucked away with a piece of paneling for a door and an old-fashioned latch that’s been there since I learned my ABC’s and that 8 x 7 always equals 56.

I had forgotten all about the cabinet.

Until.

Until yesterday when I was sweeping and looked down and there it was.

I knelt down and slowly opened the latch and the door creaked open as a thousand and one memories flooded over me.

And then?

I smiled softly to myself and pulled out this.

A train track.

One my father had given my oldest son.

My father would lay out the train tracks and then get down on the ground and help my son put it all together. Oh…the adventures they had with a wooden track and a train that traveled to imaginary countries all over the world.

That was my father.

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.”

My father (and my mother) filled this cabinet with toys.

Toys we played with when we were little and toys we passed on to our children when they started coming to the Cape. Every summer the treasure trove of toys would make their way across the slate floor.

When I opened the door of the cabinet yesterday I discovered a time capsule inside.

There were stacks of books.

And race cars.

And tiny fighting men.

And yo-yo’s and wooden whales and spinning tops and beach buckets and pails and this wooden peg holder where you hammered the pegs from one side to another.

Everything and anything we could stuff into this cabinet we did.

There was a lifetime of stuff filled every nook and cranny behind that paneled door.

The cabinet was full to the brim, so I pulled it all out to sort and clean and toss and figure out where everything went.

I was almost done…

….when I discovered something wedged way back in the corner of the cabinet.

This blue train engine with its tiny smoke stack ready to lead the other train cars on adventures unknown.

With one finger I pushed it around the track watching the wheels spin.

And sitting there alone on the cold slate floor with all the toys that had gone before…

….I almost cried.

Because in that moment, I missed my dad more than I can even explain.

I desperately wanted him to see how those tiny train pushers had turned out.

I wanted him to see how kind and wonderful and sweet and supportive and full of joy his grandchildren are.

I wanted to see the incredible humans they have become.

I wanted him to be here to celebrate all these incredible milestones in their lives that are speeding by faster than a blue locomotive with a tiny smoke stack.

Truth?

He showed me how to be a parent—-that wise and wonderful father of mine.

He showed me how to be fully present in every tiny moment.

He showed me that sometimes it’s less about worrying what you aren’t doing right and more about being there for imaginary escapades with a wooden train and a dozen pieces of track.

Life is truly all about the journey.

And I’m so thankful I had an incredible conductor to show me the way.

I love you, dad.

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Comments

  1. Image for Sheri Sheri

    A beautiful story! Tears filled my eyes. I lost my dad 3 years ago and every day I think about him. Recently I asked my husband I wonder when I will stop saying dad likes this or I did this with my dad. He said he hoped never because he wants to be remembered like that too! Thanking Jesus this beautiful Good Friday that because of him, we will be together again someday! Love your writing Karianne. You’re a very special person!

  2. Image for Nancy Nancy

    Oh how I also miss my father. He was so gentle, loving, involved in my life and supported me, encouraged me, and was simply the best! I am a very patient person and I think that comes from his model. He lived to be 94 and I only wish it could have been to one day after whenever my life here ends.

  3. Image for Clennie Cowle Clennie Cowle

    Marianne, that was beautiful and what a tribute. Your dad was a special man. His daughter is too. I do believe he looks down from heaven, smiles at all you and your family has done and thinks, “That’s my girl!” Have a wonderful Easter Weekend! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Image for Cathy Rinehart Cathy Rinehart

    Marianne, Beautiful story! We lost our Dad 19 years ago. Sheri, my sister and I have watched our kids grow over the years and now we have grandchildren!! We always say we wish our grandchildren would have known him! He always made us laugh and teased us only as our Dad knew how to do!! ❤️ He would have loved our grandchildren!!🥰 Good Friday to both of you!! Yes, we will see them again!! ❤️

  5. Image for Lee Stearns Lee Stearns

    What a wonderful post on this Easter weekend! I miss my dad too! Generous/kind/stern but fair! He always said “ kids learn more from what they see than what you say”! Yours have learned from you, as we all are! Thanks for sharing “ you” every day- Happy Easter!

  6. Image for LeAnne LeAnne

    My dad was like this too. He's been gone for nine years, and we miss him. Lately, he's been on my mind a lot--for the same reasons. His granddaughters are graduating from college. What would he think? He would be so proud. What would he say to them, to my sister and me? He was a treasure of a dad (and husband). I look forward to seeing him in heaven some day.

  7. Image for Janette Janette

    I think we all have these very same feelings at some point, its hard when you sit and think of what they have missed out on, but then I realise my parents could never be far away, always just a thought and I am convinced they have watched everyone grow. I know its hard isn't it, your father sounds wonderful, you have precious memories, more important than any wealth. Happy easter to you all.xxx

  8. Image for Melissa Melissa

    Love this!!! I miss my Dad too, sometimes I laugh out loud when one of my kids says something or makes a facial expression or just stands just like he did....

  9. Image for Nicole N Nicole N

    Such a sweet loving tribute...this brought tears to my eyes. We all want to feel important and valuable in the world. Sometimes we wait a lifetime- until they're gone- to appreciate how much someone has meant to us. Beautiful post from a beautiful soul.

  10. Image for Laura Laura

    So lovely. Thanks for the memories. Makes me miss my Swedish Dad. A post that will be perfect for Father’s Day. Or any day.

  11. Image for Diana Diana

    KariAnne what a sweet tribute to your dad. I know you miss him. I am fortunate enough to still have my dad. You are so genuine and it shows in your posts. Hugs my friend

  12. Image for Becky Becky

    KariAnne, the train! We had a similar one at our home for our grands- now 18 and 16 and long passsed playing on the floor. Thank you for sparking this sweet memory. A gentle start for the day.

  13. Image for Jodena Beale Jodena Beale

    Parents, nothing replaces them. As a kid, teen, tween and even sometimes while a married adult my parents made me want to scream. But that FEELING passed quickly and I couldnt wait to tell them about my latest news. They are both gone, but forever next to me. I still tell them about my latest news, mostly my mom, but I talk to them both. Thank you Karianne for the lovely tearful story, it made me remember the good old days. I Wish there was a way to know "you ARE in the good old days" before they are just a memory. Happy Good Friday. God bless us all.

  14. Image for Denise Denise

    Thank you for sharing something so heartfelt and personal. As I sit here with tears in my eyes, I too am thinking about my dad. The anniversary of his passing is in this month. April, a month of new beginnings and hope, and yet for some like me...a month that is also filled with memories much like your own that bring on much reflection and deep remembrance. Happy Easter to you and yours.

  15. Image for Deb Deb

    I have absolutely no doubt that your dad has been beside you ever since he passed -- cheering you on, marveling over the milestones each of your children passed, every challenge, every joy in your life? He's been there. Parents like your dad are few and far between....so glad you've got those wonderful memories to hold onto to until you see him again.

  16. Image for Sherry M Sherry M

    Beautiful. I cried. Your dad showed up in a very big way and continues to through you and your children. I am in my 60’s and I lost my dad 8 years ago. I still miss him every single day. He was awesome. There are very few days I don’t think about the positive, loving impact he had and is still having on my life. Enjoy the memories..nothing more valuable in this life other than the assurance of Easter making it possible for me to one day see him again..forever! Happy Easter!

  17. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    What a wonderful tribute to your dad Karianne! I teared up not only because of your words about your dad, but also my memories of my dad that came flooding back. So thank you for that. I’m sure that both our dads are looking down on their respective grandchildren with much happiness! Enjoy your day! ;)

  18. Image for Laura Laura

    Well this is a beautiful story. A secret gift from your Dad re-discovering all those treasures and memories. Thank you for sharing this. ❤️

  19. Image for Carrie Carrie

    My husband died suddenly in December and my kids (25 and 22) have (without warning) lost someone who sounds exactly like YOUR dad. The story teller, the playmaker, the confidante….and this story is so beautiful. I hope in the days to come, when they discover a long lost toy- they too, take a moment and remember the man who loved them so much extra. Just like your dad. Peace, love and many blessed memories.

  20. Image for Donnie Donnie

    Oh, Karianne, one of your very best! Your father was amazing, just look at how you turned out. He’d be so very proud of you and your siblings. Your lives are a tribute to him. Happy Easter! 🐟🐇

  21. Image for Suzi Wollman Suzi Wollman

    Ah, KariAnne, how you move my soul! My father passed on 5 years ago one summer, and I have missed him everyday since then. I will miss him the rest of my life... and then we will reunite "on that beautiful shore." And I love it that you have such GOOD memories of your obviously wonderful father. Grace to you today.

  22. Image for Laura Harrie Laura Harrie

    KariAnne, As you share your life stories with us, we are blessed! Your Dad was an amazing conductor and he gave us you, who really is amazing! Thank you!

  23. Image for Janice Paschal Janice Paschal

    I’m crying now remembering your sweet Dad! He was such a wise man. I’d like to add to your comment “life is truly all about the journey”. Blessed are those who find joy in the journey. Your Dad did that. Every time we drive through the majestic mountains in CO, we talk about how Mark would be telling us about those rocks if he were with us.

  24. Image for BeverlyO BeverlyO

    What a beautiful tribute and memories. Thank you so much for sharing. I am especially missing my Daddy more these days because he died at Easter. He was my rock, my source of wisdom, my strength, my mentor, and the one who taught me to extend grace and lift people up. Your story brought out so many memories of my own father and inspired me to be more like the grandparent he was to my children. May you feel the blessings of your own father and thank you for reminding me to cherish the ones from mine.

  25. Image for Vicki Vicki

    KariAnne, that was beautiful. What a tribute to your Dad! I lost my dad 3 years ago at age 100. He lived with us for the last three years of his life and I miss him every day. Thank you for your post, which I enjoy every day. Happy Easter to you and your family!

  26. Image for R Newton R Newton

    Karianne, I LOVED the story about you and your dad. I too have some tears running down my cheeks. I loved my dad so very much too. He was my hero, my confidant, the one who cheered me on to always do better, etc. He was only 59 when he died but I still miss him all these years later for no one could ever replace him. Thanks for your beautiful story, I think of mine most every day for I find something that I do, hear, see, feel that reminds me of him. Happy Easter to all........Bertie

  27. Image for Marie Casale Marie Casale

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I believe that at times like that, when we are so overwhelmed with missing a loved one, they draw close to us in spirit. I feel they sense our sadness and reach out to connect through the love and longing.

  28. Image for Linda Scott Linda Scott

    I think your dad showed up for your vacation and he let you know it when you found the trains! Your story is beautiful and there is nothing like a great family!! Have a wonderful day!

  29. Image for Renae Renae

    Such a beautiful story. I can picture you and your sweet dad having the conversation. How blessed you are to have such a loving father, Hugs to you, my friend. I sure love you.

  30. Image for MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!)

    Precious! Precious! Precious! KariAnne! Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories with us. You need to bring that little train and train tracks home with you and put them underneath your Christmas tree! I know your Dad would be so happy to see how wonderful your children have grown up with their wonderful Mom and Dad that God has blessed them with. A Dad is so precious! We could just feel the love that you had for your dear Dad. A Dad and a daughter share a very special bond. My Dad passed away many years ago but there is not a day goes by without a precious memory and thankfulness to God for the parents He blessed me with. How wonderful to know that I will meet Dad and Mom in Heaven one day. Have a blessed Easter with your family, KariAnne. Thanks for being so precious! You are so loved and we thank God for you. We are so blessed to have you a part of our life,

  31. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Oh, my goodness! How very precious…I may be crying with you. I always love your heart stories. Tuck all those tiny toys back behind that paneling…who knows what memories those other tiny toys have for the others in your life.

  32. Image for Pam Maxey Pam Maxey

    There no more beautiful words than you have spoken and especially for those of us who have lost our dads. I feel the same way you do! Thank you for sharing your blessing!

  33. Image for Katy Katy

    On a day where we remember the gift of a son from our Heavenly Father, this is a meaningful and poignant reminder of an earthly father’s love for his child. I too miss my Daddy, but was blessed by the terrific man he was and know he lives on through our generations. This was a treasure to read Dear KariAnne and I’m so grateful that you shared these moments and memories with us here. Wishing you a blessed and beautiful Easter with your family.

  34. Image for Anna Anna

    Thank you for sharing your memories and for giving us this meaningful post. Cape Cod is my favorite place on earth and it seems to attract some wonderful people- including your Dad (and Mom). I think we all need a secret cupboard where we can stash things that are lost to time.

  35. Image for Lynn Lynn

    What a sweet story! I’m sure those toys will make more memories for the next generation of kids that come to the Cape! Enjoy your vacation. Happy Easter.

  36. Image for Heather Krout Heather Krout

    This is so beautiful KariAnne. I can only imagine the flood of emotions you must have felt opening up that cabinet filled with toys. Loved this and your story telling so much.

  37. Image for Marlene Marlene

    Loved this post and made me stop and think about mine, dad's are so special and I think because of him you are special too!

  38. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Sigh....you got the tears flowing today. My dad died on his 91st birthday in January. So the loss is new. So glad you had all the time with him and that he was such a great conductor!

  39. Image for Cindy Cindy

    I smiled, I got tears in my eyes and I giggled at this post. Finding those treasures in the cabinet at first made me feel sad. As you told stories of these treasures the stories made me smile. Reading the story about you snd your dad made teary and then giggle. Reading about the man and the conductor made me wish I knew him and shared my love of ice cream. Reading your tribute to this wonderful man you called dad made me happy you had cherished memories of your dad. Always hold on tight to the gift of great memories

  40. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    OK, KA - just read this to my husband and I am bawling my eyes out. You are such a great writer. Sigh. What a beautiful testiment to your father. He and your mom did such a wonderful job with you - and you are with yours - what a lovely wonderful family of love. Just between us? I miss my dad a lot too. Big hugs.

  41. Image for Sandra Sandra

    Happy Easter Keri Anne. I lost my dad 3 yrs ago this may. He was 96. I also went to the Cape, Chatham, every summer for 2 weeks. We had a Sunfish sailboat which we trailored over to Hardings Beach. My 3 girls learned how to sail on lake George and on the cape. Every time we return there I can still see in my mind that sailboat out in the distance with him at the helm . The girls playing on the beach and all of those precious memories come flooding back. Thank you for your sweet message today...Easter Sunday.

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