Father’s Day is this weekend…did you remember? Sometimes a card or a phone call will do, or a special gift. How about a cherished memory that you shared with your dad where you wanted to say, “Thank you”? It doesn’t have to be thanks for a dramatic moment that the two of you shared. No grandstanding or emotion expected. But it could be a phone call with a moment of thanks for a brief, fleeting moment where you remembered feeling safe, or knew that he cared about you or where for the first time, you recognized him in the role that tied him to you?
I remember clearly when my father opened the door for me of the dance of written and spoken English words. I had started school however reading and writing were not yet skills I understood very well. Dad went to bed early, always. He would sit up and read for about an hour each night before sleeping. His polio as a child had left him with one leg a little shorter than the other. So, by the end of his workday walking around for 12 hours on his own industrial plant’s cement floor, was an added chore. His special shoes to correct the difference in leg lengths exhausted him during those long work hours supporting a wife and five children. Few people ever knew his fragility in walking and stability and that one misplaced bottle cap on the floor could topple him over in a second. I am certain he would have wanted to be alone in those precious hours, but he shared them with Tom and me.
I was about eight when for the first time I caught him reading in bed late. Favorites were the evening newspaper, THE RICHMOND NEWS LEADER, National Geographic Magazine, and the King James version of the Holy Bible, and great novels of the day…all in that order. He always read with a pleasant expression on his face and each page seemed to please him more as he kept turning, turning, turning. One night my younger brother, Tom and I climbed into bed with him early and begged for him to read to us. Surely if he was smiling, whatever he was reading would be wonderful to hear. Dad read the Bible to us. Selected verses and chapters he thought important and histories of the people who knew and surrounded Jesus of Nazareth. Subsequent nights we returned to hear more stories and he continued with poems and stories for children and poetry like “The Song of Hiawatha”.
If he were still alive, I would thank him for his reading those stories to us. As I lay my head on his chest and heard his wonderful masculine voice resound through his chest walls, I would thank him now for my loving the way English sounded when he spoke it. I would thank him for his cadence and pronunciation that seemed like music to me when the words danced about and formed a complete thought. I would thank him for pointing out each word on the page when he spoke, so I could see the spelling and follow along as best I could. It is still no wonder that today when I also read in bed just before I go to sleep, a calmness comes over me and after a few pages of whatever I am reading, I drift into peace and a much-awaited sleep.
My father will not be here for this Father’s Day or any future one. He passed many years ago but on ‘Father’s Day’ for years now, I always thank him for that and more. I know he hears it; as I feel that peaceful calm return. Perhaps whether your own father is here or gone on Father’s Day—a call from you—no matter how short or long away it will be appreciated, and that special calm will grace both of us.