Word by Word
The only man-made light was the bright orange glow of my father’s cigarette. Cutting through the balmy summer air were the sounds of bullfrogs and crickets happily chirping away. The bench where I sat was hard, but I did not care; it was simply enough for me to be with my dad on this quiet evening. I inhaled the intoxicating scent of honeysuckle and enjoyed the sight of lightning bugs dancing across the yard. The night was calm yet teeming with an unseen energy that made the world seem to pulsate with life. Its energy washed over me, and I was perfectly tranquil.
My dad and I talked about politics (he thought Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a great governor of California; I agreed), love (he said boys were stupid and I should wait until I was older; I disagreed), and everything in between. It was a comfortable conversation, languid and easy.
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He listened to my opinions about life and society. He chewed them over respectfully as if I were a business partner and not an awkward young girl. I returned the favor. I listened to the drawling rise and fall of his voice encouraging me to be independent, to laugh at myself when I screwed up, and to put God first, others second, and myself last.
I lived for nights like that – drank them in like water. My father could not have known it then but our simple conversations meant more to me than just small talk. I learned about life and my place in it. I discovered that I could do anything I wanted as long as I worked hard and led an honest life. When Dad told me these things, I listened – not only with my ears but with my heart. I took them in and kept them close to me, replaying them in my mind whenever a challenge crossed my path.
Six years later, those conversations are still with me. Opinions I formed and ideas we discussed then are still relevant today. Although time has passed, my dad is gone, and it’s been a long time since I had time to sit and enjoy a balmy summer night, I still find myself using our chats as a foundation for who I am today. The encouragement in his words gets me through those pre-calculus equations. His goofy sayings replay in my head when I spill coffee on myself. He gave me my strong-headed tendency to defend an opinion into the ground.
He could not have known it then but those simple exchanges of words and ideas on those humid summer evenings define who I am today. As a carpenter, my father created his work piece by piece, but as a dad, he defined me word by word.