Last year for Mother’s Day I wrote a post about all of the wonderful life lessons I learned from my Mom. I had intended all along to do the same honoring my Dad for Father’s Day, but the day came and went and the post never made it online. We ended up spending the weekend in the Berkshire’s, the five of us: Mom, Dad, Matty, Liana (my sister in law), and me. I intended to write in the car but it never happened, and then we were all together. One thing I have always been aware of in my family is that time is always more valuable than words, so rather than sneak off to write a flattering post to publicly acknowledge my Dad’s awesomeness I instead spent time with him. A gift I know he far preferred.
Since that day however, I have regretted never putting into words all of the amazing things my Dad has taught me about life. The man who sacrificed so much to be present in my childhood and now my adult life, a man who befriends strangers and has more than once stood as a groomsman in weddings of men my own age. A man who drives at a seemingly snail’s pace but as a result can see an animal across a distant field as he drives past, slowing down even more to point them out. A man who is goofy beyond compare, so comfortable in his own skin that it seems impossible to imagine the insecurities that plagued his past.
He is a man whose hugs have a reputation all their own. My dad is tall so his hug envelopes you into his arms just below your shoulders. At the moment that a normal hug would end and you begin to feel that this one should too, he pulls you just a little closer, holds just a little tighter, and something inside of you melts, relaxes. By the time he lets go you are just beginning to wonder if you could actually stay there forever. Inside my dad’s hug is the safest place I have ever known, and if they served snacks there, it is a place I would never leave.
On a recent trip home I told a few friends I planned to spend the weekend with my parents. ach and every one of the friends immediately replied instructing me to give my Dad a hug for them. So I did. I stood with him in the living room and for each friend he hugged me, he spoke encouragement for each of them, individually, knowing what was going on in their lives. He asked questions, he held me, then he let go and we moved on to the next friend. In that moment I was simultaneously amazed that this was what each friend thought of, thrilled at the marathon of hugs, and astonished at the amount my Dad knew about each of them, the thoughtful nature of his comments.
Over the past few months as I have crafted what to say and when I have considered so many categories of what my Dad has taught me; to be present, to see, to watch quietly and move slowly, to sacrifice for the good of others, to love with abandon. And then, this morning the simplicity of the answer dawned on me. All of the things I have learned from my Dad compile together to one lesson.
My Dad has taught me more than anything else how to love. In medicine a heart that is too large is harmful, but my Dad’s huge heart seems only to heal those he encounters.
As a child, I experienced my Father’s love in his presence and time. He watched me dance almost every night, for hours, after long busy days at work. Never once did he check his watch, lift the daily paper, or reach for the television remote. He was simply present and patient, watching me jump across the living room in costume after costume.
I learned about love from the way my Dad looks at my Mom, like she is the only woman in the world. The way he used to leave work when they lived in New York City and go to watch her rehearse rather than go home to relax after a long and busy day.
I learned love from the way my Father has learned to understand, appreciate, and be excited for the things my brother values. Things that weren’t part of his life previously, but that developed huge importance simply because they mattered to his son.
As I have grown and moved away, taking me farther and farther from my parents, my new and wider perspective has only allowed me to see more broadly the way my Dad loves. The way he cares for other people is inspiring, the vulnerability he takes on in being present and genuine with them is refreshing, if not intimidating. Recently, I have watched from afar as my Father experienced the loss of an extremely close friend. It has broken me to watch him experience his mourning and letting go. It has hurt me to not be there to support him through it. Yet it has amazed me to watch the love that he has poured out over the last few weeks and months to his friend, his friend’s family, and to all others he came in contact with through the experience.
Strangely, it was in watching this, in hearing him talk about his dear friend and the things he will miss, the amazing qualities this person had that the world is now without, that I began to see the quality of my Dad’s love. The lessons that are in it for me, and all those he encounters.
Love is Patient
Love is Present
Love Asks (and actively listens to the answer.)
Love is Vulnerable
So as my Dad mourns and enters this next stage of his life without this dear friend by his side, I can only hope that I will use all of these things I have learned from him about love, and give them back.
I look exactly like my mother and in certain areas we are so similar, some good, some not so good. I am built like my father, long and lean, and we are similar in many ways too. Some good, some not so good. But my one hope is this, I hope that one day, maybe years down the road, people will look at me, and say,
“That Kate, she loved, just like her Father.”