I've often wondered what makes one memory stand out over another. My clearest and most cherished memories with my dad over the years are an unlikely mix of ordinary days. He was there for my high school and college graduation ceremonies, but I don't remember anything significant about those days. He gave me away at my wedding and stayed up all night at the hospital, awaiting the arrival of my son, but I can't remember anything he said at either event. His presence mattered to me, and I felt loved, but no one thing sticks out in my mind from those mile-marker occasions. What does stand out--the memories I cherish most--are from spontaneous conversations in the middle of the mundane. Special moments from the ordinary days.
When I was in kindergarten, I realized that many of the other kids didn't call their parents "mommy" and "daddy" anymore. Feeling it was time to grow up a bit and call him by a different name, I walked up to my dad as he lay resting in bed. He picked me up and held me over his head (airplane style), and the conversation went like this...
Me: What else can I call you besides "Daddy"?
Him: You can call me "Daddy".
Me: What ELSE can I call you? That sounds too much like a little girl.
Him: But you ARE a little girl. You're MY little girl, and you always will be my little girl.
Me: Even when I'm 100 years old?
Him: Even when you're 100 years old.
I'm 43 now. I've cherished that little exchange my entire life, and he's never been anything but "Daddy".
We've lived about 300 miles apart since I was 14, and on average, we see each other about once every couple of months. On one of those visits, we had a couple of hours with just the two of us which was a little unusual. I was about 27 and still single. He came over to my apartment, and we sat in the kitchen and chatted a while. Aside from the fact that other family members weren't with us, it was an ordinary evening.
We ended up talking some about his parents, and Daddy started crying. He said, "You just don't know how lucky you are to have two parents who love you and are still alive." He was 12 when his father died and 23 when his mother passed away. He apologized for his tears (as if that was necessary), and the weight of what he had said started to sink in. I thought of what it must have been like to have lost both parents at such a young age, and I shuddered to think of what it would be like if he was suddenly gone. He may be "Daddy" even when I'm 100 years old... but he will no longer be here. And his little girl can't bear the thought of that.
Daddy is 63 now. His father was 46 when he died, and his mother was 58, so he's lived longer than either of them, and I am mindful of that. I am thankful that I've been fortunate enough to have him well into my adulthood, and I love the visits and conversations I have with him. I cherish these ordinary days because that is what life and love are made of... and we never know how many ordinary days we have left together.
Let each of us hold on to that for the loved ones we still have in our lives. Let's relish the ordinary days. Let's soak up the mundane and take notice of the beauty within it, because in the end, those are the moments we just might cherish the most.