Good morning, Dad.
The sun has risen on this, your 78th birthday, and it’s shining its promise of glorious delight out across the tree tops of the ranch. You would love the view.
The birds are competing in song, and in just about every other way, right now. It is, after all, that time of year. We have two of our three barn swallow nests occupied by nesting mamas, and I find myself turning a blind eye to the mess they make and a more focused eye to any predators that might interfere, including our own cats! One of the nests might just hatch while the kids are here, and I’m excited at the thought of sharing it with Lilli.
You know, it’s the warmer weather I associate with you most, Dad. So many of my memories find you, timeless, with your black hair slicked back and your dark-rimmed glasses, in a white t-shirt and jeans, working in the yard, or tinkering with the cars. You kept both to a level of perfection, and, as for the cars, regardless of what we were all driving, or their age, they were all very clean, bumper-sticker-free, chrome shining, oil topped off, and tires at the appropriate pressure. To this day, I still don’t like my car to be dirty if you’re going to be in it!
You would sit outside after the day’s work, whether it was on the back steps of a little red-brick house on 16th, or the patio on Westlake, or now, in your swing on Fernwood. You would always point out the sunset, or the trees, or the flowers, and savor creation as the gift it is. From the car, on our trips to nowhere, just to “ride around,” you did the same thing, continually looking out the side window to the point that I often wondered how we stayed on the road.
With Easter this weekend, I have memories of all of us dressed up and climbing into one of those gleaming vehicles (most often a ’66 Ford Falcon station wagon), to head to our second home, First Christian Church. I noticed, even as a girl, that people would instantly light up at seeing you. You would grab them all up in one of your signature squeeze-the-breath-clean-out-of-you hugs, and cut jokes that let them know they were important to you. And it was every person that came by. You never have been a cliquish man, but all-inclusive, never ever meeting a stranger. I also noticed that, even if you were involved in a conversation, you would look past them to me, and wink. I never wanted for your attention, and you made sure, right down to gardenia blossoms on my pillow at night, that I knew I was loved.
As I sit here, barreling up on 51, I’m struck by how much these simple traits and ways of living have shaped who I am. I truly believe that I love where I live as much as I do, because of you. My eyes and heart feast every single day on the bounty that God placed right outside my window, and I can’t get enough. Ask Kevin, or the girls, how often I’m pointing at the sky or a beautiful view and saying “Will you look at that? LOOK.” Those trips to nowhere have become some of my favorite trips to take, too. The thought of just riding around thrills me, and I have a love for a good car, especially something with a little age on it.
Most importantly, you taught me how to love people, Dad. How to really see them, and cherish them. How to show them Christ with the simple but profound act of touch. You’ve shown me how to be Christ to people who really need Him, thereby proclaiming Him to a hungry world.
I may not be wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, but I will watch the sun set this evening and say a particular prayer of thanks for the blessing of having a Dad like you. A hardworking, humble man, a servant…a prince.
The first prince of my heart.
Happy birthday Dad…I love you, big as the sky.
no words.. just lot’s of love. you are a lucky lucky girl melinda.. but i bet, i’d bet my life on it, that your dad would say he’s the lucky one. blessed are you both. happy birthday to your papa! xo
Melinda, your dad and I can’t even express how touched we are by this tribute!! We both had tears running down out cheeks. Thank you so very much for this treasured letter/gift!!! You are loved to the sky and back and Lynne is right, we are the blessed ones!!!
tears of joy run down my cheeks as I remember your family and the old cars !! priceless 🙂