Today I tried to pick a favorite memory with my dad, and I realized just how many we have. From watching “The Grey” at a movie theater and laughing that we paid to see such a scary movie to deep-sea fishing in Mexico (catching more tuna than the boat could hold and spotting humpback whales to the side of the boat) we’ve had some pretty amazing times. But the one that stands out the most for me today is one of our hunting trips.
He woke me up even earlier than farmers rise and handed me a thermos that held shepherds’ coffee. I quickly realized the value of drinking that stuff slowly—to avoid a gut full of grounds!
We four-wheeled over to a ridge my dad had scoped out with my Uncle Wayne the day before. But before we could traverse to our lookout spot, my dad relayed the importance of silence. “We’re trying to blend in,” he whispered, then placed a finger to his lips.
We combat crawled to the edge of a cliff before just waiting for a long, long time….
It was slow at first, but I started to feel the pure energy—the heartbeat—of the earth. The wind played the most beautiful melodies I’ve ever heard, and, as if calling them to life, oranges and yellows streaked across the sky—playing a symphony for those lucky enough to see it.
I felt the earth’s skin aching to shake off the cold and darkness as a tumble weed popped from the ground and rolled along, fighting his way through this world, just like the rest of us.
And then it happened. The sun burst from a mountain range and started highlighting the tips of everything. The trees ignited with life. The ground heated with excitement and the joy only brought by a new day. My strawberry-blonde hair whipped in front of my face and turned to fire! And my dad, well, he grinned in a way I’ve never seen. He looked every bit a majestic mountain lion, wild and free. He looked so…alive.
Not long after the sun rose, we spotted two does resting under a massive tree across the valley. My dad and I worked all day to get within shooting distance, but when we were almost there, the does simply stood up and bounded—as fast as lightning—to the exact spot we’d started from…across the valley!
After that we gave up the charade and talked freely. I relayed how surreal it’d been feeling the earth wake up like that, and my dad imparted the value of always finding beauty in life (which to him is always finding the good).
That night we ate fancy potatoes that my Uncle Wayne and Aunt Judy made. I heard hilarious stories that shocked me, and I remember feeling the warmth of the campfire as I looked from my parents to my epic aunt and uncle. The four of them have always been true legends in my eyes; heck, just being by my dad and Uncle Wayne is like meeting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!
Over a decade later my dad had a stroke. I couldn’t get a plane ticket fast enough, so I hopped in a car with my oldest daughter and sped through two states just to be by my dad’s side. “This means so much to me—to us,” my mom said. “I can’t believe how fast you got here.”
“That’s what you do for the people you love!” I said. And as I squeezed my dad’s hand and told him I loved him, I just knew he’d make a full recovery—like he did.
I honestly never lost faith that he’d get better because I’d seen him on that ridge so many years ago. I’d seen his fighting spirit and the beauty of his soul. And I think that’s one of the greatest things he’s passed on to me: the courage to fight even when all of the odds are against us. Plus, he’s shown me again and again that there’s power in having an unshakable will to ALWAYS find the good.
I’ll be forever grateful for the lessons he and my mom have taught me; they’ve buoyed me through every hardship life has thrown my way and helped me truly cherish the good times.
Love you so much, Dad. Thank you…for everything. I hope you know how very much I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
This is a picture of my dad (right), Sky (middle), and me in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.