I had my dad for such a short time, just 24 years. He was 47 when I was born. Dad used to tell me that from the first day they brought me home, I was looking for him, which I cannot help but think was God’s doing. No matter how busy he was, my presence was always acknowledged and welcomed with a smile and most times with a sing-song “Do-Daddy, Do-Daddy, Do” in response to my “Whatcha’ doin’, Daddy?”.
In the middle of whatever he was doing when I found him–combining wheat, filling his grease gun, writing out seed tags, talking to a neighbor, or just leaning on a fence looking at a field of soybeans, he brought me into focus, welcoming me with a smile into the ordinary moments of his day.
I followed him around closer than his shadow, always content just to be with him. I loved sitting beside him in the big truck on trips to the feed mill or the gravel pit, and he never refused me once when I wanted to step up on his big work shoes to hang on while he ‘walked’ me to the house. We shared afternoon snacks of refrigerator cookies and ice cold water on the tractor; and before church, as we waited for Mother to finish getting ready, we read the funnies together, him in his chair and me stretched out on his lanky frame, the Sunday paper like a tent over us while we chuckled at Dagwood, Beetle Bailey and Little LuLu.
My dad was a man of few words. I was not, but never once did he tell me to be quiet. And even though he was usually doing something else when I was with him, I always knew he was listening. I began my days with him at the kitchen table and ended them by kissing his weathered cheek goodnight.
If he were here today, there would be chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, and he would say he needed help blowing the candles out because there were so many! He would open our presents of homemade bookmarks, measuring sticks, unevenly hemmed handkerchiefs, and pictures colored just for him, lingering over every one, turning them into treasured possessions to be tucked away and found years later when he was gone.
My dad never talked about love but taught us by example. From him I learned that love is always patient and kind, doesn’t envy what others have, and never brags about what we have, that it isn’t prideful, rude or self-seeking, and that it isn’t easily angered and never holds grudges.
I grew up knowing that there was nothing I could ever do that would cause my dad to stop loving me. That was the greatest gift he gave me, because it made it easy for me to believe in a God who loves unconditionally and forever.
I still look for my dad in the corridors of my mind where memories come alive and are savored once more. But someday, and someday soon, I will look for him and he will be there where I never have to say good-bye again.