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BEST MEMORIES OF HER DAD

For many years, I've asked women to share their best memory of their dad. Here are some of my favorites:

 

THE MEANING OF WORDS: “Every time I didn’t understand a word, instead of moving on to something else, my dad would get out the dictionary. I remember sitting with him, looking up words, talking about language. Such a simple thing, but those times with him meant the world to me and to this day I am curious about the meaning of words."

BREAKFAST WITH DAD: "During my high school years, classes always started late on Thursdays. Kids could go to school for extra help, or sleep in. But me and my dad, we went to breakfast on Thursdays, something I counted on. It meant a lot, but looking back I realize it meant even more than I knew at the time. That he made time to do this every Thursday says a lot about the kind of dad he was." 

 

JACKIES POPSICLE: "I must have been 6 or 7 and the popsicle man was coming down the street and I ran to my dad to ask for money. He was about to head out to the base, so was already in his fatigues. When he laughed and told me he didn't have any money, I slapped his pocket and it jingled! He laughed and reached into his other pocket for change and handed it over. I ran off happy and ignorant of the fact I'd slapped his keys. My mother told me later that what change he had was for the coffee machine. My daddy went without coffee so that I could have an orange popsicle!"

 

DADDY'S LITTLE HELPER: “I have a picture on my dresser of me sitting on my dad’s lap, cutting the grass on a riding lawn mower. I vividly remember those rides until one summer when I got too big. Or lost interest, I don't know, but the memory makes me smile. He lives three hours away now, but if I needed him, he would be here in one.”  

WORTH FIGHTING FOR: "I was being picked on at school, and Dad told me that if it didn’t stop, he would make it stop.” She knew he would stand up for her if she got in some kind of trouble that she didn’t know how to handle herself. After thinking about it for a minute, she said, “I figured if I was worth fighting for, I was worth something.”

LISTENING TO JOHN PRINE:  One lady describes her dad coming home wearing his work shirt, "the one that has his name stitched on the front in cursive."  As he sits down, he looks at his children and says, "Okay, whose turn is it."  She says she's six, maybe five, could be seven, she's not sure. But she's sure of one thing - "I always wanted it to be my turn."  She describes one night sitting on the back porch with her dad - "I have never felt more grown up than I did then, in that moment, at six or five or seven - because it's just me and Daddy, and we are listening to John Prine. Every time there's a bad word, he winks at me. When Prine died I called dad to see if he remembered the times he let me stay up and sit with him at night and listen to John Prine." He says, "I don't think I remember that," always a man of few words, "but sounds about right." 

AIRPORT HERO: “It was the end of our family vacation. I was five years old. We turned in the rental car and were headed through the terminal to the gate when I realized I’d left my doll in the rental car. My mom said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get a new one when we get home.’ But my dad scooped me up in his arms. We ran back through the terminal, got on the shuttle bus, and returned to the rental car place. I got my doll back, but the thing I’ll always remember is the thrill of being in my dad’s arms as we ran through that airport. For me.”

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CREATING MEMORIES WITH HER

Go shopping with her. If she lets you. If she’s trying on clothes and asks, “How does this look?” you should hear, “I’m giving you an IQ test.” She is inviting you in and taking a risk. She wants to know what you see when you see her. She wants your affirmation and your blessing. Give it to her.

 

You also have a job to do with boundaries. I once said, “Looks great! I’m willing to pay for more material.” Don’t delegate this to Mom.

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YOUR TURN

Someday Rachel will forget the day I took her flowers and chocolate at school. But she will probably remember how she felt when she got them: seen, heard, valued, cared for, important, and loved. Maybe not consciously, but the way she felt in that moment is in there. You can do that same thing. Start small—just start somewhere. And remember to document with photos so she will have them to treasure.

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THE COMMON THREAD:  After asking this question over the years, I noted a common thread - a simple thing: time and attention. Dictionaries are not that memorable. Mowing the lawn is not that memorable. What is? Time with Dad. It’s not complicated - invite her into the routines of your life, get involved in hers.

 

Not every woman had a dad who made these life-giving deposits in the memory bank. One woman told me she had no good memories of her dad. Some women told me they were trying to forget their dads. Some answers were sad in their smallness. One woman told me that she was very close to her dad until age 13 when he stepped away from her and became less involved in her life, less interested. 30 years later, when she told me this story, she still remembers the hurt. Where did he go, she wondered? It took them many years to reconnect. Dads - don't step back in the teen years. She needs you more than ever. 

From these stories, good and bad, I began to understand the opportunity I had to impact my daughter's lives. They became the inspiration for my early years of parenting Elizabeth and Rachel, some of the best years of my life. Later these stories became the starting point for The Every Sunday Project.

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