I saw my dad last night for the first time in a long time.
He was sitting, quiet and still, in a church pew. I was walking into the sanctuary in a single file line with my peers. As we squeezed into his row, I positioned myself so that I was the one who was able to sit next to him. I leaned against him in such a familiar way that I remember finally feeling safe. There really wasn’t much more to the moment than that. There was no dialogue or even eye contact that was exchanged between us. The whole time his eyes were fixed straight ahead, but I knew that he knew I was there. We didn’t hug or embrace in any way, but it didn’t matter. My whole being was content simply sitting next to his. Simply feeling the warmth of his shoulder against my own, simply hearing him breathe next to me. My heart hurts when I think of how happy I was just to see his chest rise with every breath that he took. He was alive and he was here! He smelled like stale hazelnut coffee, aftershave and Old Spice. His hands were still rough, folded in his lap. His wedding ring still scuffed and well worn. The only thing that was different was his eyes. They no longer felt tired, exhausted from the weight of his life. His brown eyes were so deep that you could get lost just by staring into them. And now they looked young but they were wise. I wanted to reach up and touch his five o’clock shadow, feel the wrinkles on his bald head, but instead I turned and looked straight ahead as well. I sat, quiet and still, and breathed the same air as my father.
When I woke up in the morning, it took me a while to recover. The moment was fading and my heart was still so full of love that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that it was a only a dream. I miss him every day, but I am thankful to have these moments. They remind me that I was insanely lucky to have a dad like him. He taught me how to be patient and kind, but still goofy and playful. He taught me how to put together a bookshelf and fix a dishwasher. He taught me that if there is something that needs to be done, I should do it, not to look good or win brownie points, but because that is the right thing to do. I am absolutely the way that I am today because of my father and I am thankful for that.
This is one of my favorite pictures of him. I believe it was day light savings time, and he was setting his alarm clock back an hour before bed. It’s blurry and imperfect, yet it captures him in a very ordinary moment of his life. There is nothing special surrounding the story behind this photograph, its just him living his life and that is why I love it.