I don’t have the best memory in the world. When I try to think back to monumental moments, wading through the cobwebs in my brain often proves too much energy than I can muster. I have no recollection of my high school graduation. My college graduation? Well, I remember that Chad was wearing a tank top and shorts under his gown. (Rebel.) Everything else about that day, well, it seems to be hiding among the cobwebs and dust in my aging mind. I’m certain that I wore a white dress on our wedding day–my certainty a result of the wedding dress that still hangs in the back of my closet. The rest of the details of June 2nd, 2001 have long been forgotten, with only little reminders found in perfectly posed pictures from our wedding album. (Thank God wedding photos have changed a bit since our day.) And let us not forget the day I showed up late for a certain middle child’s preschool graduation, officially making me The Worst Mom Ever.
Needless to say, remembering is not my greatest strength.
Still, there are some moments during my lifetime that are so etched into the fabric of who I am, remembering is no effort at all. These moments, these extra special moments, have shaped and formed me and become a part of the way I see the world. One of those memories happened when I was somewhere around 12 or 13 years old and sitting around the dinner table at the Holiday Inn with my Mom, Dad, brother and sister.
I’ve talked about our Wednesday’s before, and this Wednesday was much like many other Wednesday’s. I sat with my family at the Holiday Inn, a place that we often frequented for our mid-week family meal. We sat at one of our ‘usual’ tables while waiters and waitresses meandered about refilling water glasses and checking to be sure that bread baskets were always filled with warm fresh bread. The spacious restaurant was not filled with many people, so it seemed odd that our family of five was seated just a few feet away from an older couple, with silver hair and lines on their face, sharing a meal together.
I have forgotten many of the details about that particular Wednesday. (See: memory issues above). I forget if it was warm or cold outside–though I’m pretty sure it was cold. I forget what I ate for dinner that evening. I can’t remember if we had our favorite waitress (Mirium, I think?) or waiter (Bob) that day. I forget exactly how we found out that the older couple with silver hair sitting in the booth just feet away from our table was celebrating their wedding anniversary. And I forget if it their 40th anniversary? Their 50th? Maybe even their 53rd? 60th? Those details I just don’t remember.
I do remember one thing, though. I remember my dad talking very quietly with the woman at the cash register before we left and I remember later learning that my Dad had quietly paid for that older couples meal before walking out the door and never saying a word to them.
I remember being wowed by my Dad’s gesture that day and asking about it later. I remember my Dad telling me how special it was to see two people celebrating the years gone by in such a quiet, classy manner. There was no fanfare, there was no fuss. There was no need for that stuff. For that couple, it was enough that they were together. On that day, so many years ago, my dad was moved by two people quietly celebrating their commitment and I was moved by my Dad.
And even after all these years, I continue to be moved by my Dad.
In a world filled with loud voices, the lesson I learned on that cold (or maybe warm) night at the Holiday Inn rings even more true today. I think of that couple and I think of my Dad and I am certain of the beauty that lies in living a quiet, humble life. I am reminded the things that matter most in life are never ever things, but rather those people with whom I get to journey through life. In a world that so often shouts NOTICE ME! NOTICE ME!, that night taught me to quietly notice those around me. In a world that so often screams LOOK WHAT I DID! CELEBRATE ME! That night taught me to notice what others have done. To quietly celebrate what others have done.
Today is my Dad’s birthday.
Today my dad is 67 years old.
Today I quietly (or maybe not so quietly) celebrate my Dad.
Dad, the lessons you’ve taught me could never be contained in a single blog post or even in the pages of a book. Somehow, though, the lessons you’ve taught me are most certainly contained in my heart.
Thank you for teaching me dad, sometimes with words, but more often with your life. Thank you for teaching me that class never goes out of style. For teaching me to never take myself too seriously and that laughter is the best medicine. Thank you for pointing out a sunrise and the sound water makes when it splashes against the shore. Thank you for teaching me that a long run on a Saturday morning is my very best friend. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate the simple things, Dad.
And Dad? More than anything, thank you for giving me such a solid foundation and still, a soft place to fall.
I’m so glad you’re mine, Dad.
I love you.