my father*

my wedding.

me & my father.

father daughter dance
photos from my wedding in 2004, by robin nations

I've been waiting for a special time to talk about my father...just him. Today I've walked around my house and it seems my every thought is about him. Times we shared together. Things we feel and have said to one another or haven't said but wanted to. I am writing this with a lump in my throat and warm tears forming. I think these tears carry so much. My love for him is deep and wide and I wonder if he truly knows this. I think he does.

He was never a man of many words. Growing up, he was mostly a man of funny sounds or jokes to make his three girls laugh. I am not sure if he knew quite what to do with the overwhelming amount of estrogen in our home. He just made it fun, I suppose. He never made us feel he wanted a boy. He was happy and proud of his girls. I just think when we all sat around gabbing and giggling, he was secure enough to sit there quietly and drink us all in. He never felt he needed to be the life of our party or compete with our energies. He quietly let us shine with an enormous smile underneath his brown high cheek bones.

When my father did speak, we listened intently. We soaked it in like water to a sponge. His words were few but selectively wise and clear if we needed advice. I think I inherited this from him. I remember once my boss explaining to a sea of corporate dudes during a meeting when I was asked my opinion..."Denise doesn't say much but when she does, we need to listen." I am proud to carry that gift he gave to me.

There are many memories I have of him that are dear to my heart. I will share a few that I hope give you a wee glimpse into the man that he is.

There was a time when my father would go on nightly walks around our neighborhood and I would join him. Sometimes we each would have our earphones in with different music. Sometimes we would walk in silence because we didn't feel the need to fill the space with words. Sometimes we would chatter about everything and nothing. But he always made sure he walked closest to the street on the sidewalk. I never really thought much of why he wanted to do this until I finally asked after walking with him for weeks. He said; "Because if a car were to hit us, they would hit me first." I remember quietly taking this in, watching my feet on the pavement and holding back tears. I felt so safe with him.

Every summer we would camp as a family at San Mateo Memorial Park. Being surrounded by tall redwood trees and the smell of camp fire was my father's bliss (and mine too). Many times we would go on a hike alone. It was something I looked forward to every year...the adventures we'd go on together in the woods. One time, he slipped and fell quite a few feet down a cliff. I screamed for him and panicked and while he was the one scraped and bruised and trying to climb up to safety, it was him who tried to calm me. I grabbed his hand and lifted him up with all of my might. I remember a flash of what it would be like to lose him. I hugged him tight and we moved forward, perhaps him not wanting to disappoint me by turning back. It is that hike that lingers clear in my mind the most. The hike that made me realize he may not always be here and to not take any of those moments for granted.

Then there was the time I moved to Texas to be near my best friend and explore living in a place so totally different than what I was used to. He wasn't keen on my going because he wanted me near but he supported me. So much so that he offered to drive me there. It was an amazing road trip: California to Texas...him and me, windows down, hot wind blowing through the truck, a mixed tape I had made. Little did I know that hotel after hotel, he would wait until I was sleeping to keep a journal. He kept every receipt (gas, food, snacks, gifts) and taped them in the journal and wrote what we did that day. He also explored his feelings about losing me to this massive State of Texas but it was one thing he wrote that will stay with me forever: "We had been driving too long without stopping and I grew tired. You were sleeping and my eyes were heavy and trying hard to stay awake. The next thing I knew I was swerving to the next lane when my eyes opened and my heart raced. I was determined to stay awake and take care of my precious cargo." He gave this journal to me when he said goodbye before driving back to California by himself. It made me weep. Both the idea of him being alone on the drive and that he would make such a beautiful journal for me while I slept.

Oh daddy...there are so many deeper sides of you that people do not see. But I always have. I have felt connected to you in this way as long as I can remember. Even in my toddler years when I stood up on a chair and you let me play with your thick black curls on your head. I knew you then. You've been intimidating to some, a mystery to others and a bright smile and goofy spirit that lights up a room...but to me, you are all of those things and so much more. I see you.

I am so proud to be your daughter (and look like you) and I hope to carry the gifts you have given me to my child, the way you did for me.

I will always let you call me Booch. ; )

Happy Father's Day.

p.s. my sister Darlene's tribute to our father here.