The View from my Father’s Shoulders

I learned to dance…because he offered me the tops of his shoes and his 2 gentle hands.

I learned to get dirty…because he encouraged me to climb trees.

I learned the theme song to Captain Kangaroo…because he pulled me onto his lap, and we watched it together.

I learned to love the early morning sunlight dancing off the ocean…because he hoisted me onto his shoulders and walked me over the dunes to see it for the first time.

I learned to compromise…because he gave me siblings.

I learned to be a friend to my brother and sister…because he’s remained a friend to his.

I learned to read…because he read to me.

I learned that summer is for grilling…because he manned the Weber 3 months of every year.

I learned that some people can eat raw hotdogs without getting sick…because he consumed one every time he grilled.

I learned that autumn leaves are for jumping in…because he raked them into high piles and stepped aside to watch me leap.

I learned to love the theater…because he sat with me in the orchestra and opened my eyes to its magical world.

I learned to skim rocks…because he taught me on a stream in the woods behind our first house.

I learned to throw like a boy…because he wouldn’t have a daughter who throws like a girl.

I learned to sing with conviction, with a voice not half my sister’s…because I listened to him sing, with a voice not half my Mom’s, every night in our kitchen.

I learned to appreciate Peter Sellers’ physical comedy…because he introduced me to the Pink Panther movies.

I learned to love string bands…because, in the crisp cold of the New Year, he dragged me to the Mummer’s Parade.

I learned to body surf instead of boogie board…because he believed in the simple harmony of the water and the body.

I learned to save gently used paper plates…because he was a child of the Great Depression.

I learned faith in God…because he raised me to believe.

I learned to question that faith…because he taught me to speak my mind.

I learned to admire conviction in a man…because he’s never been short on passion.

I learned to love English…because that was his college major.

I learned that Neil Diamond tours every 4 years…because he always scores tickets.

I learned to embrace my heritage…because it’s impossible not to when he loves it so much he paints his beard green every March 17th.

I learned to be carefree…because he saved adult conversations for times when children were out of earshot.

I learned the importance of balance…because he worked hard and played equally hard.

I learned that there are certain beverages I shouldn’t drink…because he told me that gin rhymes with sin.

I learned that Mom drives the car home once he sings Goodnight, Irene…because that is his song of choice…after drinking gin.

I learned that Friday night is movie night…because he began the tradition with the birth of the VCR.

I learned to be trustworthy…because he trusted me.

I learned to share certain things only with Mom…because, despite that trust, he would have locked me in a tower had he known.

I learned to continue to push my body as an adult…because he played racquetball until his knees would no longer permit it.

I learned that crew is more than a sport…because I watched his bond with my brother strengthen from their shared love of it.

I learned to treasure friendships…because he’s maintained his best for over 50 years.

I learned that the most exciting 32 seconds of college basketball occurred at the Spectrum on March 28, 1992…because we stood side by side, holding our breath, 10 rows behind Kentucky’s net.

I learned that a smile and a kind word can turn someone’s day around…because I watched him make that difference in so many lives.

I learned that a sense of humor is invaluable…because he used his to put others at ease.

I learned the art of storytelling…because I paid close attention to his delivery.

I learned the power of positive reinforcement…because he never tore me down.

I learned to feel special…because he told me enough times that I believed it.

I learned to be present…because he whispered so frequently, “Remember this moment.”

I learned to seek out silver linings…because he’s always been a dreamer.

I learned to disagree politely…because he taught me responsibility for my words.

I learned compassion…because I watched him come apart over the loss of his best friend.

I learned courage…because that’s what it took for him to stand before the crowd and eulogize that same friend.

I learned to fly…because he spent 24 years helping me grow wings before releasing me in my simple white gown on a windy afternoon in June.

I learned that a parent never stops worrying…because he asked me 3652 times, “are you OK?” when I was pregnant. Every time I was pregnant.

I learned paralyzing fear…because he burdened me with the news that he had cancer.

I learned hatred of that disease…because it threatened to take him from me.

I learned to value each day with him…because the radiation worked.

I learned the power of a grandparent’s love…because I watched his face transform when we placed my son, his first grandchild, in his arms.

I learned nothing compares to the pure joy on my children’s faces…because he so generously took them to Disneyworld for the first time.

I learned that age is just a number…because when that first grandson suggested the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, the fact that he’s 74 didn’t stop him from riding it.

I learned that sunglasses provide excellent camouflage…because he used them to hide the look of bewilderment after his Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster experience.

I learned to continue his legacy…because I recognize it in the values I teach my sons.

I learned the value of being proud of myself versus being prideful…because he took the time to teach me humility.

I learned respect…because he commanded it.

I learned confidence…because he believed in me.

I learned to follow my dreams…because I’ve watched his come true.

I learned my voice was worth hearing…because he listened to me.

I learned not to spoil my children…because, when others gave things, he gave me time, and with it we created cherished memories.

I learned to be bold…because he showed me that chances are worth taking.

I learned, upon falling, to recover with dignity…because he raised me to be strong and move forward, holding my head high.

I learned to smile for my children when my world was collapsing…because he taught me that my job as their parent is far more important than any drama in my life.

I learned that every year for him past 70 is a gift…because he’s acutely aware that those are years his father never had.

I learned that authenticity is what I most respect…because he’s always been a true original.

I learned that his opinion still matters…because when he told me, “I read what you wrote, and it moved me,” I floated through the remainder of that day.

I learned that, although I’m too big to ride on his aging shoulders, his love for me is just as fierce…because I recognize it in his blue eyes, covered by glasses and surrounded by the lines of time.

I learned to be whole in a world full of broken women…because of the unconditional love of the first man who held me.

Happy Father’s Day (and happy 75th birthday) to my Dad, a true original.


*An abridged version of this piece ran in the Huffington Post on June 18th in the HuffPost50 section.


32 thoughts on “The View from my Father’s Shoulders

  1. Beautiful, Bethany. I am in tears. Oh, how I miss my Dad. A lot of those things you mentioned in this entry, my Dad also did for me. He was also an original — there will be no one else like him again. He would be the same age as your Dad if he were still with us. Happy Father’s Day to your Dad and to all of those wonderful dads in the world who take time to love their kids!

    • Thanks, Maryanne! I thought this would strike a chord with you, knowing you’d lost your Dad. I’m sure Bob’s doing all of these wonderful things for Mia! XO

  2. ((HUGE sigh!)) Beautiful, touching and so inspirational. I am in the middle of writing and you have inspired me to write a Father’s Day piece. Thank you and give your dad a huge hug from all of us readers who have benefited from his parenting!

  3. What a beautiful tribute to a very special man! I don’t your father that well, but I will never forget the look of pure, unadulterated joy on his face on two specific occasions. One was in Halligan’s on St. Patrick’s Day, surrounded by your beautiful mother and all of his children, with his green beard and giant hat covered with shamrocks, grinning from ear to ear. The other one was on your wedding day when he walked you down that aisle. You could feel the pride emanating from him! I have never had that kind of a relationship with either of my parents, and I envy those of you who do. It brings such joy to me to see how much you recognize and appreciate the value of that relationship and his gifts. I try to bestow those same gifts on Lauren, but since I didn’t have any examples to follow, I often find myself struggling to show and teach her those things. It’s hard to know how to make your child feel a certain why, when no one ever made you feel that way. But I do my best, because that is my job. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post with us. And I hope your father has both a wonderful Father’s Day and a wonderful 75th birthday!

    • Thanks, Jen! I was going to post a picture of him with the green beard. Absolutely classic! We make mistake after mistake as parents. Our first two are guinea pigs…particularly the first. I find it’s less hard when I reflect on the things my parents always made a priority in our lives. Time together. Making memories. Finding ways to make one another smile. Letting us know that we are special. Calling us out on bad behavior. Giving us a hug when they wanted to slap the stupid out of us. It’s a big, big job. Thanks for reading, and I’m sure Lauren will appreciate everything you’re doing!

      • I work hard at making memories with and for Lauren. That’s easy. It’s the day to day things that I get fouled up in. And the making her feel special. Some people have that gift. And they have it with everyone they meet, not just some people. Your dad is that kind of person, and so is your mom. And they are very inspiring. I hope to be as a half as good a parent as they are. If I achieve that, then I already did better than mine did. Your father has lived a life well lived. We don’t all achieve that. This is an accomplishment that he should be proud of! That and the legacy of his children speak volumes about him as a man!

  4. Bethany, once again you have amazed me. Just when I think that you have written your “best work ever” you come up with a new one. The fact that you can speak to so many of us and that even though you are talking about your own life’s experience, you have us nodding our heads and reading as if you know us. We find something in your writings that we can relate to. I totally enjoy your sense of humor, and although I did not raise sons, but daughters, I enjoy your stories about the boys. The tribute you wrote to your Mom for Mother’s day was wonderful, and remains one of my favorites. As soon as I read this title, I grabbed for my tissue box becasue I knew somehow I would need them. As I read your words I thought of my own Dad, and of course I will be missing him this father’s day. But I also thought of how many things you mentioned were not just my Dad, but my own husband as well. He is a wonderful father, and my girls are very lucky to have him for their Dad. Your Dad must be very, very proud. He helped your Mom raise a wonderful girl. Happy Father’s Day to all of the great Dad’s out there, and congrats to all the girls who were lucky enough to have them in their lives.

    • Thank you, Debbie. I know you just lost your Dad, and that this will be a different Father’s Day for you. I’m so glad you see your husband’s hands in this piece as well. A Dad’s role can make all the difference in a child’s life. My Dad’s has, and I’m lucky for it. XOXO

  5. What a beautiful tribute. Your father sounds like an amazing person. Clearly, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Happy Birthday & Father’s Day to your Dad!

  6. I dont usually respond to blogs,however, I felt your words were worthy of comment. You articulate being a parent and child so poignantly. I can only hope my children feel the same way about me as you do about your dad. I’m so grateful heather alerted me to your writings. Happy fathers day to me!

    • Happy Father’s Day, Dr. Orman! You and your wife broke the mold with Heather. As her running buddy (therefore her confidante), I can assure you she feels the same way about you that I do about my Dad. Thank you so much for reading!

    • Aw, Dee, thank you so much! Perfect opportunity for me to ask him to babysit tomorrow night…Ha! Thanks for reading!

  7. And one more thing… I think you should print this out and take it to a calligrapher. Have them calligraphy it on a beautiful piece of paper, frame it, and give it to your dad on Father’s Day. It will be the best give ever, and sure keep you in your position of Number 1 child that you surely hold! 😉

  8. I just lost my father to lymphoma last week. Your words brought me to tears. It sounds like you love your Dad just as I loved mine. What a gift.

    • Mo, I’m so sorry about your Dad! What a tough time for you and your family…you are in my thoughts. Thank you so much for reading. Hang in there!

  9. Reading this makes me want to be a better mom. I hope my kids will someday remember the little moments because they are way more important than “things.”

    • Mary, I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I jumped on the trampoline with son #2 tonight instead of folding the laundry. There will always be laundry to fold. But he won’t always want my time as much as he does now. Thanks for reading..and for commenting! Hope you are well!

    • Thank you so much, Katie! I was super duper stoked they ran it. Hope your husband had an amazing Father’s Day with his 3 girls!!!

  10. Bethany,
    What a beautiful tribute for your Dad on Father’s Day. When I see my daughters’ faces light up when their Dad comes up, I’m reminded of just how much weight every word, every nuance, every wink my Dad gave me really had. Seems the same for you. I also identified with how the list kept growing! What a fine tribute to an impressive man and father — and I only know him through your words. Wishing you and your family many years of continued health and happiness…

    • Kara, thank you so much! As you know, I love your father’s day tribute as well. I see my kids’ eyes light up every time my husband walks into the room too. Occasionally he says, “You know, this is alot of pressure.” 🙂 True, but I know he’s up to the task. Thanks for reading!

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