It's Sunday afternoon. Lunch is put away and the house is quiet; its occupants either napping, reading or playing outside. I'm walking down the linoleum hallway, barefoot and in cutoff jeans and a t-shirt. I peek around the corner and there's my Dad, by his side of the bed, and I hear him praying for us. I hear my name, my brothers' names, and I hear the emotion in his voice. I keep walking and I'm not particularly surprised, because this is nothing new.
Who knows what I did next--maybe poured some lemonade and sat under the big oak tree with whatever Babysitter's Club book I was reading at the moment, maybe returned to my room and put one of my beloved DC Talk cassettes on, maybe poured out Legos on the living room floor or set up the chessboard.
I may have taken those moments for granted, but now that I have them planted in my memory, I don't take them for granted. I was raised by an amazing father.
He was busy, he liked things to be done right, and he made a lot of commitments. Like so many people, I look back and remember him working, a lot. There were things he wasn't there for. But I also have so many memories of him being present. He affirmed me so many times. He never told me there were things I couldn't or shouldn't do because I was a girl or because I was simply me. He made paths for me. When he told me he was proud of me, I felt it so profoundly.
I saw him love my mother well; coming home from a long day and rolling up his sleeves. He shared the "second shift". He set the bar pretty high, as all fathers should, whether they have sons or daughters.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if he hadn't been part of it. I was an infant when he and my mother met, and some of my earliest memories involve him. Sock wars while he babysat my brother and me. Crawling up in his lap after church to ask for fifty cents for a coke from the machine. Driving out to the wilderness in his truck, searching for the perfect Christmas tree.
It's one thing to be a step-parent and tolerate. It's quite another to love a child so well that she occasionally forgets who's the bio parent and who's the step-parent. That is a gift that he gave me, and I will forever be grateful for it.
I think about all the things we could do if he was here--how he could teach my children so many things, how he would have loved them so well and imparted something mysterious and holy to them. I miss asking him for advice; I miss the slight Texas drawl in his voice. I miss. But at the same time I feel free to just remember and be grateful for all the Sunday afternoon prayer (and probably so many that I never heard), the pancakes, the early morning drives to band practice, the obnoxious and endearing whistling, the corny jokes. The experience of being a loved daughter.
Not everything in life makes sense but when you get to carry a legacy around with you, you know you're blessed.
The older I am, the more I realize just how blessed.