Friday, June 18, 2010

Have I Told You That I Love You Today?

My dad used to ask me this every morning before I headed off to school. He was handsome, charming, and a true gentleman.

Having grown up in the age of free love and rebellion, my dad was also wild and unpredictable. From spontaneous whipped cream fights to screaming contests at the dinner table, he believed that childhood should be one thing and one thing only: happy.

My dad would wake us up at 11pm to catch the midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show on South Street. We would take road trips to Disney World at a moment’s notice, with him howling in excitement at the thought of riding the backwards roller coaster in pitch darkness.

On Halloween, my dad would bust out his legendary collection of costumes. He would run around the house in capes, monster masks, and do just about anything to spook trick-or-treaters, even jumping out of a rocking chair and right through the front window screen.

My dad was always cold, ever since his army days, when he patrolled the German border, through frigid winters. He wore flannel pajamas in July and pleaded for a “hot dinner” every night. He always made sure that we were warm too.

He bought me red fuzzy feet-in pajamas until I was 15 and constantly worried that my bedroom was drafty. Suspecting a problem with the insulation, one day my dad decided to investigate. Wearing his favorite Cole Haan loafers, he slipped into my bedroom closet and busted through to a crawl space. He accidentally stepped off a wooden beam and onto the insulation, which sent him crashing through the ceiling. He landed downstairs, in the dining room, covered in plaster and dust, inches away from the glass table, on his feet! Home improvement was not my dad’s forte, but still, he was our hero, always holding down the fort for his girls.

My dad loved having daughters. He appreciated the little things, like our all day shopping sprees, impromptu “fashion shows,” and the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting from the kitchen or our Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven.

There was just one thing that made my dad absolutely nuts: boys. Let’s just say he was slightly protective. Okay, overprotective. He once threatened an 8 year old neighbor boy who threw pebbles at my sister at the bus stop. But that was nothing compared to the time he chased down and frisked some teenage boys- in his underwear- after they turfed our front lawn at 2 a.m. Or the time he warned an oral surgeon to be gentle while extracting wisdom teeth from my sister and me. (My dad scared the surgeon so much, HE had to be extracted from the office!) My dad always made it clear that his girls were the most important things in his life. He warned a former boyfriend of mine as we were departing for a week in Alaska, “Look, if you see a bear, let the bear eat YOU, tell Stacy to run!”

My dad is young and vibrant, but he’ll tell you he has the mileage. He also has soul. He, who inspired, loved, and cherished us, who lectured us on everything from the lyrical genius of Bob Dylan to the “righteousness” of salmon, who never got rid of my size 3 red cowboy boots in his closet, has something in him that is pure magic.

Maybe it's in his love of nature and garden creatures and shamans of all kinds. Maybe it's in his "isms," such as, "If you're not a little weird, you're not worth knowing." Maybe it's because he's not above speaking to a dog. Maybe it’s the way he twirls us on the dance floor or makes elegant widows feel like schoolgirls again. Maybe it’s the way he delights in hearing his beautiful grandsons say the words, “Pop pop.” Maybe it’s the way he loves my mom, his high school sweetheart, who could not have possibly imagined the journey she was in for when she hopped on his 1965 Triumph motorcycle.

The magic of my father is woven so deeply into every thread of my life. From the steamy summer nights when we’d catch lightening bugs in the backyard, barefoot, in our pajamas, to the long walks on the beach, jumping waves in the ocean, and feeling the sun shining so bright on our faces. Through every season of every year, that magic left a trail of unforgettable memories. Like the time my dad put down the roof of his convertible and drove us through a beautiful snowfall, with us wrapped in mohair blankets, to our new home. He was never short on creativity.

I don’t know if a father is born with this magic or it simply emerges the first time he sets eyes on his newborn baby. I do know that something magical passed down from one generation to the next when my dad asked me, day after day, with a glimmer in his eye, the very same question I would ask him this Father’s Day,

“Have I told you that I love you today?”