The earliest memory I have of my dad is sitting in his lap, feeling his chest move up and down with each breath. I felt safe and loved there with his big, strong arms around me.
Later I remember sitting on my tricycle at the corner of our street, wearing overalls and red cap-toe Keds, waiting for Daddy to come around the bend in our black and white '57 DeSoto station wagon. As soon as he would see me, I'd peel out, pedaling as fast as my chubby three-year-old legs would go. He'd slow the car and pretend to let me win, pulling into the driveway just after me, laughing, "You're too fast for me!"
My dad traveled for his job with the State of California. Sometimes we'd go with him during the summer, just to keep him company. He loved having a family to come home to at night, instead of an empty motel room. One night in Ukiah, we bought ice cream cones and took them out to the small town airport to watch the planes come and go (I know, sometimes families have to find entertainment within a limited budget). I wasn't paying attention, dropped my ice cream in the gravel and started to wail. Without a thought, Daddy immediately handed me his ice cream. At the time I thought it was just because he loved me so much, but later I realized he probably just couldn't bear to hear me cry.
The hardest thing I ever had to do was to see my dad lying in a hospital bed when he was dying of cancer. He'd always been the strong one who took care of us all, the man who could do anything, fix anything, who didn't cry when he'd nick a finger tinkering with the engine of our car. Suddenly he looked so frail and small in that bed. But even then, he kept his cheery attitude. He knew he was dying, but he was the one comforting everyone who came to see him. "I'm going to a better place," he'd say, "where I won't ever be sick again. And I'll see all my loved ones again!"
Daddy died twelve years before Jack was born, so Jack never knew his Grandpa. I know my dad would have been proud of him, would have tried to understand his challenges and would have loved Jack with all his heart, as the rest of us do. I just can't help thinking about him today, Father's Day, and wishing he were here.