Thursday, August 26, 2010


Ten years ago, I got a call from my sister. I was in my basement apartment in Merriam, KS. She told me to sit down.

“Dad was in an accident…”

In the seconds before she breathed the next words, and before I could fathom taking another breath in, life took a pause – you know, one of those pauses that turns minutes into seconds and a blink into a dream – a pause that helps you contemplate the right answer for Jeopardy, or strategize the correct angle to hit the car that just pulled out in front of you, or the one you ignore when you jump in to finish someone’s sentence and it turns out you’re not so good at that after all. I thought in that nano-moment that I was getting that call. That call that they capture so well in the romantic comedies, or the war movies – that call that is going to change your life. I thought that I had lost my dad.

In that brief amount of time, I thought about all the awful things I had said to my father, and the even more awful things I had thought. I thought about the dinners at Krystal after dance class and the couple times he forgot to pick me up. I thought about the night he surprised me and picked me up from work my senior year of high school to take me to dinner and a movie – a night that was his way to say sorry, even though he didn’t know how to say those words. I thought of his stories he would tell – the ones of his long-ago past, and also the concocted tales of characters he made up just for us. I thought about the many pieces of wisdom he served to too-cool a set of ears. I thought about trips to the haunted house where he held my hand as I cried, and scared away the actors more than they could ever scare me. I thought of the many shopping trips with my fashion-forward dad and his unfortunate love of the color brown. I thought of my life spent trying to make my dad proud.

In this stretched-out set of seconds, I pleaded with my dad. I prayed that he give me one last gift. Just one last present that he always picked so well. Please, oh please, give me one more day. One more moment to say thank you. One more story to share. One more hug. Heck – one more lecture.

As my sister continued and time gained back its meter, I found my gift in her words. Dad was not dead – but he was broken. Completely. He ended up being in traction for 8 weeks and his burly body gained some pins and screws and his knees now froze in the winter.

But I got my gift. Every day, I opened a new one, sometimes forgetting they were there, but always happy to get them. Well, there were some days I would have liked to take back for a refund – or at least an exchange – but I am grateful for every one. Especially the ones that brought him to my wedding day, days that featured him in his best role EVER – as a grandpa, watching my favorite television shows with him on the other end of the telephone, my first time coming into the house that he worked so hard to build, having him tell me how proud he was of me, holding his hand as he fell asleep, getting to be the one to tell him that it was all going to be okay.

And now, like a greedy child watching the dwindling piles under the Christmas tree, I am totally wishing I had taken more time to cherish the ribbons, been careful to slip my finger under the tape just right as not to tear the paper, opened each present slowly to hold it in my hands and inspect it and try it out and taken a picture and wrote down how I felt to own every single one.

But life doesn’t let you do that. The tree sits there for a while and the presents still surround you like they just were opened. But soon, the needles lead a path to the curb and the gifts will be just a memory.

There are still packages to open. I’m not sure how many, and they may not shine the brightest, but I am thankful for every single one. Thank you, daddy – you always showed us your love in the gifts that you would give, I’ve never felt it more than today. I love you.

I'm taking in all the happenings in Kansas City and saving you all the trouble . . . I'll let you know whether to soak it up or squeeze it out!!