She remembers him saying to his three-year-old boy,"You're the only one who can call me Dad."

alison-smoking-cigar1Here is a father story.

Once, a father called his daughter on her 33rd birthday.

“Happy 33rd,” he said. “Happy 33rd.”

Pause. Pause. Pause.

His daughter stood by her answering machine, wondering if that was the end of it. Then came a clearing of the throat and a mumbled I love you.

The daughter opened up the answering machine – this was when answering machines were things, not disembodied cyber messages flying through space – and snatched out the tape on which her father’s message was recorded. She put the tape away in a drawer.

Twenty years later she still has it. She showed it to me, an old Radio Shack cassette tape with a pencil mark at the exact place where her father said those words.

Blessings on the fathers, all the fathers.

The fathers who are able to say “I love you” easily and often, and the fathers who aren’t. The father who pushes his child on the swing, higher and higher, and the father who lets his child hitch a ride on his wheelchair.

The father who scratches out a budget in pencil on lined yellow paper, the better to show his child where it all goes when she says in teenage superiority, But where could it all go? How can there be none left at the end of the month?

The father who comes stumbling out of his baby’s bedroom late at night and throws himself into a chair, saying, I spend half my life in a dark room, singing.

The father who untangles his child’s bobber from the weeds where she has cast it yet again, and the father who stands  his child on his feet to dance her around the room.

Blessings on the father who wore blue coveralls on from the barn and washed up in Lava soap. Blessings on the father who grew old and forgot where he left the car.

On the father who let his child twirl on the stool at the diner. Who pulled her up the hill on the toboggan. Who taught her how to make scrambled eggs.

And blessings also on the father who screams at his child. On the father who let his children live through all those Christmases without him. On the father who never wrote or called.

Blessings on the father who cried on  the plane home from visiting his first grandchild, who told his wife I wish I could do it all over. I wish I had been a better father.

Blessings on the father, not hers, who appeared to her in a dream, nodding from the other side: Keep going, you’re doing a good job.

Blessings on the fathers, known and unknown. Blessings on the  fathers, and blessings on their sons, and on their daughters.


  1. Judy · June 21, 2009

    So many kinds of fathers. We each see ours in there somewhere. I am blessed this day, that the man I picked to be my life mate is also an out of this world dad. One of my favorite new quotes, that I recite to my own teen daughter, “Don’t marry a man unless you’d be proud to have a son who turned out exactly like him.”

    I am so lucky I did and they are.


  2. Jennifer Bostwick Owens · June 24, 2009

    Very nice. Especially powerful to give blessings to the father who says, “I wish I had been a better father.”


  3. Diana Raabe · July 9, 2009

    This is a lovely tribute to all the good fathers out there – and I know there are many.


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