you are larger than life. sparkling eyes and infectious smile, you win everyone over. you are so many things to me, words aren't enough. though I have to take a shot with the words. I am nowhere near the extraordinary storyteller you are but I have to try.
what is it about you? kids are drawn to you like bees to honey. I believe they call that charisma. I am remembering how our house became the center of the neighborhood most summertime evenings, right around dusk. somehow, you found the time to play monster with us and our neighborhood buddies. this variation of hide and seek (your original, of course) still has us talking about it 25 years later. and your bike rides: legendary events that included the leading of a gaggle of kids down the main drag of our small southern illinois town. and you, you always took the leftover bike. the saddest-looking most ridiculous bike. you never cared how dorky you looked, that your knees scraped the handlebars. your actions taught me more about humility than you'll ever know. without saying a word, you spoke volumes about the importance of putting others first. this moved me in deep and profound ways, it did. years later and it still does something to me.
you are so much fun. really. ridiculously skilled at transforming the ordinary into something thrilling. my childhood is filled with memories of backyard escapades, trips to the park, the movies, evening drives in the blue bambino, top down (always). back in the day, kids could hang out all over the back seat of a car. we let the wind hit our faces as we struggled to finish rapidly-melting dairy queen dilly bars. you sang along to whatever was playing on the radio, your strong hand rythmically pounding the steering wheel. you were always game to sing louder, sillier, to go down the slide one more time, happy to play longer, stay longer.
I grew up watching you move up and down the basketball court like gene kelly in converse hightops. a little rougher around the edges but just as graceful. you moved with such force, such power. I wanted to move like that. fitting that you were the one who taught me how to dance. I remember the spinning and the whipping around, elton john playing on the mammoth-sized brown stereo, shag carpet soft beneath our feet. my love for movement is rooted in this.
your genuine love for the game, for coaching, for teaching, for kids, for life humbles me, inspires me. and your love for God was (is) giant-sized and real. you had a soft spot for the kids nobody liked. the awkward, uncool ones who got dumped on daily. you had the most spectacular way of making them feel important, like they mattered. you made them feel loved. over the years, our family became acquainted with so many outcasts, so many oddball (though mostly lovable) characters. I paid close attention, dad. I will forever carry with me what it means to be compassionate. it's rarely convenient or popular but always, always worth it. people are always worth it. this is one of the reasons why I became a teacher.
you were there to give me the push I needed, just when I needed it. I am remembering the morning we drove downtown. I am remembering how nervous I was. I knew I was going to puke, I just knew it. it was as if I'd been chewing on cotton balls. and I begged you to turn the car around and go back but you gently refused. had it not been for your steady encouragement, I would never have auditioned for the school for creative and performing arts, would never have had the experience of studying dance and art at such a young age. your voice has always been present, telling me to be brave, supplying me with just the right amount of strength and calm.
now your voice is my voice and I hear it when I'm teaching, when I'm excited to share something with my students. I hear it when I'm teaching ava how to jump rope or turn cartwheels. I see you reflected in the way that I move. your smile is my smile. I feel your strength in my arms as I hold ezra, hear your voice as I tell ava we can go down the slide one more time.
happy father's day, dad. I am the luckiest girl in the world. truly.