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.