Sunday, June 19, 2016

Steps With My Father

According to my baby book, this is a brief and unusual rest while hiking through a tea garden in Sri Lanka.
Always, for as long as I can remember, I've been running to keep up with my dad.

He has two speeds, and one of them is "Asleep". The other can only be described as "Borderline Manic".  There is so much of the world to see, and his long legs always seem to be going.  He did track and cross country only in high school and college, but he never really stopped running.  

"Dad... Slow down!"  I said this while we were exploring Beijing at age three, hiking in Pakistan at age six, searching for elusive snow when I was nine, walking through under the scorching Jordanian sun at age twelve, and now I still say it.  And the funny thing is, I've taken on the same habit.  People say I walk quickly.  They have no idea.

My hand in his, jogging, looking up at him all out of breath.  This was the view of my childhood.  There just was no path he didn't want to explore, no door down an alley he didn't want a peek behind, no landmark -- regardless of how random -- he didn't want to see.  And the rest of us... Well, we just had to keep up. 

Sometimes it drove me crazy.  But now, when I think about all the places I've been and things I've seen, I feel so grateful.  Not everyone can say "My dad gave me the world" and mean it so literally.

My dad is no saint, and I don't think he would appreciate me painting a portrait of him to that affect.  But here is what I can say for sure.  

He taught me to love good stories and telling them well.  In high school and college and in my first attempts to publish, I always had him read my writing first, because he had the best critiques.  I don't do it any more, but it's only because I think he has ingrained in me what he would say.

He always assumes the best about people, even when I wish for the love of all that is good in the world that he wouldn't.  I think sometimes it causes problems for him, but it never seems to change his perspective.  It kind of amazes me.

He demonstrates hospitality in the way I think it is meant to be -- not necessarily stylish place settings and the most beautiful furnishings, but always the attitude of "the more the merrier"".  No one is a stranger to my dad.

He knows the Grace that covers his life.  The other day my phone rang in the wee hours of the morning aft a really rough night of kids waking me up.  I have "Do Not Disturb" on, but I know that he always keeps track of time differences. I trust that if he's calling during sleeping times, it's important, and I allow calls from him.  This time it wasn't -- just a "butt dial".  Dad apologized profusely, and I laughed and said, "It's okay.  I'm sure you owe me a lot of middle-of-the-night wake-ups."

Dad answered by saying, "Not keeping accounts!  I'm always reminded on a constant basis how gracious God is to me!"

But speaking of middle-of-the-night wake-ups... When we found out we had to leave Bangladesh, it was like an earthquake that shook my whole world.  I knew it wasn't the easiest place to grow up, but it was what I knew best.  I couldn't imagine anything else.  For several nights, I found myself awake in the early morning, when it was still dark.  I'd go to my parents' bed, and Dad would get dressed, take my hand, and walk with me as I talked out my fears.  Finally, when I was exhausted enough, we would go back and sleep for an hour or so before getting up to face the day.  

In recent months, with so much changing in my life once more, I've been waking up in those frightfully-early morning hours.  And I wished so badly I could go and talk to him, walking through the darkness till it becomes light again, till I'm finally tired enough to rest.  But I know he's out there praying for me, and even if our steps in the dark aren't quite so literal, he is still "there". 

And the biggest lesson my dad taught me is loving big... huge.  He's crossed oceans with me and for me.  He's given me what he couldn't afford.  Like he said, he doesn't keep accounts.

I remember when we lived in Bangladesh, and there was the terrible flood of 1988, he and my mom went through the countryside distributing food.  There was such devastation, and I was glad he and my mom could go and help in such a tangible way.  But when he came home, I saw his sad expression.

"Didn't it feel good, Dad?  Helping all those people?" I asked.

"Oh, Joy..."  His voice broke.  After a pause, he continued,"There were just so many.  We had food for 500 in each place we went to.  Well, what happens when the 501st family comes and you're out of food, and they say to you, 'We've been out of food for two weeks, they've only been out for two days.'  What do you say then?  How do you explain yourself?"

I had no words.  I still don't.  Sometimes I lose sleep thinking about it.

But I know this.  I will always be running to keep up with Dad.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. Paula

    ReplyDelete

Go ahead and make my day! Leave a (respectful) comment!