I’m six, maybe seven, and my dad’s just picked me up from the university’s community pool after a big day of splashing around with my friends.
Over my bathing suit I wear a green t-shirt with a picture of an apple on it that says “Spoiled Rotten” in sparkly letters. Dad piles me and my floaties into his sporty little car as I babble excitedly about how much FUN I had and how SILLY boys are and what a GOOD swimmer I am and how much I LOVE the pool! He laughs as he gets in and starts the car. When the key turns in the ignition, this song comes on the radio:
My chatter slows and we both listen to the song while my dad’s little car chugs through the narrow campus roads, headed for his tiny apartment. I look out the window and see a backpacked college girl strolling on the sidewalk; I point her out to my dad and ask if he thinks she’s pretty. I’ve appointed myself his matchmaker since the split — even at this early age I tend to attack uncomfortable situations and make them even more uncomfortable for everyone involved.
But my dad’s not uncomfortable. Instead, he laughs. So I laugh too.
He segues into some joke about how I can’t date until I’m 30, and I agree without hesitation.
I’d agree to anything he said. He’s my dad.
He laughs again, and I’m proud of myself for making him laugh, even though I’m not really sure what I said that was so funny.
I’m too young to really get it. I know my parents aren’t together anymore; I’ve seen them fight and I’m smart enough to know it’s for the best.
But I don’t really GET the permanence of it all. I don’t get that my dad will soon ship off to god-knows-where on a Navy ship and our relationship will then become one of long distance, destined to stay that way forever.
I just know that right now I’m so happy to be with my daddy, and I love him so much, and he loves me, too. I can see it on his face, I can feel it in his laugh. Spoiled rotten or not, I’m the apple of his eye, and I know it to the very depths of my litte six-maybe-seven-year-old soul.
As I giggle, I have no idea that this tiny moment in time will live on in my memory for the rest of my life as one of my happiest and most content.
I have no idea that one day, about 30 years from now, I will hear this song and be back in this moment, and feel so eternally grateful for the man who has been the best father to me, and grandfather to my son, that I ever could have hoped for.
Happy 65th birthday, Dad. I love you.
Thank you for ALL the moments, big AND little. I appreciate every single one of them.