When Jan was born she was so small my father could cradle her in one hand. He told us this story with reverence and awe, even 30 years after the fact. My sister was a premie before it was a given she’d live. She was my parents’ first child, their longed for baby, and they were scared. But she was determined to make it and she fought and she thrived and lived her life fully. The image of my father’s hands protecting her with love endured in my mind. His hands were big enough to hold us all, even when we were all fully grown. He was a good dad that way.
One of my favorite memories of my dad were his pajama adventures. He would load us older kids (3 or 4 of us) and take us out for a drive in the station wagon after we’d put on our pajamas. It wasn’t every night nor was there a common destination, but he made every trip seem like the most fun thing we’d ever done. He’d tell us stories and ask us riddles or on the really special nights, there was a stop for ice cream. At home, our mother could focus on getting the baby to bed without the noise and disruption of the rest of us bouncing around the house.
As a parent, I see now what his real motive must have been; however, as a child, it was dad at his best – all ours for that special time. His stories weren’t like mom’s – his were more dark and a little scary, full of personalization – we starred in them and they seemed so much more real that way. He did all the voices and had us laughing in spite of any worries.
Today marks his 87th birthday. He’s been gone almost 3 years, which is still hard to believe. He is alive in my thoughts and memories and his hand is still there, protecting us all. I held his hand when he left his life and held Jan’s when she left hers. I stood in as his proxy, knowing he would be there if he could.
I still feel him behind me knowing that sometimes his hand is there to help and other times to motivate me. He loved me like no other and always wanted the best for me – and wanted me to aim for the best for myself as well. I was lucky to have him on my side. On his birthday, I’m sharing a little bit of him with you.