By Jane Sloan
My dad loves me well. Today I’ll call and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. (“What did you do today? Wish I could be there. I’ll see you soon!”) But we’ll end up talking about me. (“Yes, I’m fine. Kind of. Well…”)
If only I could articulate the many, small moments that illustrate the gift of his fatherhood to me. Does he know that it’s not just his genes, but all these moments of love that have made me? Here’s one:
I am five, or six, or seven. He comes home from work, loafers clopping beneath a dark suit. In the doorway, I spot a dangling briefcase and a big black coat that smells of cold. Hi Booms. Hi Dad. I follow him. He makes a snack: cheese and Saltines on a paper towel, sometimes salami. He changes clothes: shoes off, Big L.L. Bean slippers on. The smell of leather floats from the place in the closet where he keeps his shoes. How was your day? Good. How was school? Good. A funny bubbling story he’d listen to while stuffing crackers whole into his mouth. I steal a cracker. I give him a big hug, pressing my cheek against his soft white undershirt. And sometimes, if it is cold, I bury my face in his big pepper-colored wool sweater that scratches against my cheek when we hug, and collects all kinds of tears and snot if ever necessary on a really, really, bad day. Oh, those days. He lets me sit on his lap in the rocking chair. Rocking back and forth under the warm lamplight. My face in his shoulder. Weeping, weeping about everything, his little deep thinker, the crafter of shadows and epic doomsdays. And the warm light, the L.L. Bean slippers propelling the rocker back and forth and my father, silent. Sorry I got your sweater all snotty, Dad. He looks at me. That’s part of my job description, he says: “Be there for Booms.” My father.
Enough about me, Dad. Let’s talk about you. But that’s hard, because your life is a gift to me and you keep…listening. And giving.