Today’s post is in honor of my dad’s birthday and since this month’s theme is Family I thought it would be a perfect fit. I wrote this piece way back in February for a writing class that I was taking at the time. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed creating this paper.
Happy Birthday Dad, I love you!
My dad has always been a man of few words. When I ask him a question he seems to mull over every word, tasting each distinct flavor before putting together a carefully worded reply. He would ensure that each word, each syllable, conveys the answer he wants me to hear. He is no different when expressing his emotions, only he uses a wordless language, often showing, rather than saying aloud how he feels. I can probably count on both hands the number of times he has said aloud the words, “I love you,” and yet I have never questioned his love for me. Instead of saying aloud words of love, my dad shows me his affection in a language completely unique to him.
The first time I truly was able to comprehend that my dad loved me I couldn’t have been more than three years old. Sitting on my dad’s lap I placed my chubby fingers on his soft, sandpaper cheeks, the stubble from one of many futile attempts to grow a beard in order to please my mother tickling the palm of my hand. I remember my dad bringing his face close to mine, as if to whisper in my ear. The smell of sunshine, his favorite shampoo, and freshly mowed grass swirled gently around me as his eyelashes swept across the apple of my cheek three times. Each gentle close of his eye was accompanied by one word, “I,” blink, “love,” blink, “you,” blink. The tenderness of these “butterfly kisses” was worth more to me than a thousand, “I love you’s,” and to my young mind was the ultimate declaration of love that a Daddy could give.
Over time I outgrew butterfly kisses thinking that they were “childish,” and too “love-y” for a pre-pubescent tween. In the midst of beginning middle school my dad still found a way to let me know that he loved me in a way that was his own. My family was sitting in church as quietly as we could; by now I had two younger brothers that were the bane of my existence. My dad would often sit between us in an attempt to keep the peace. While I was half listening to the speaker during a lazy Sunday morning, my dad took his massive paw of a hand and wrapped it around my still child-like one and softly squeezed three times. Immediately I remembered the trios of butterfly kisses I had received during my early childhood. My dad had found a new gesture to relay a familiar message and I returned his secret message with my own silent I love you.
When I was eighteen I moved halfway across the state to be a nanny for a family in a small cowboy town. During the first month that I lived there my car broke down. I nearly had a panic attack because I didn’t know anyone well enough to feel like I had the right to ask for help. In my moment of distress I turned to the person that had always been there when things were rough, my dad. I called him and told him that my car wasn’t working. I asked if there was any possible way he could come visit and help me figure out what was wrong. His reply was that he couldn’t because of work; I knew that the possibility of him coming was slim and I accepted that I was going to have to try and ask a stranger for help. Nearly three and a half hours of frantic planning later I heard a knock on my door. When I went to answer it I was ecstatic. It was my dad with his toolkit, come to save the day. What I didn’t know was that as soon as I hung up the phone my dad took the time off work, packed his bags and drove over 100 miles to come help me when I desperately needed him. This completely selfless act was yet another testament, another butterfly kiss, of my dad’s love for me.
As I think back through my brief existence I am overwhelmed with small acts of love that my dad has done for me, from buying me Valentine’s Day bouquets, to surprise early morning fishing trips. All through my life I have been surrounded by butterfly kisses, even though I may not always see them. I know my dad will always find a way to express his love in meaningful ways.