When I called my Dad to wish him Happy Father’s Day, he told me he had gone birding this morning with my brother.
“See anything interesting?”
“A Rock Wren.”
“That’s a good bird!” (Rock Wrens belong in the arid Southwest and the Great Basin. Dad lives in rainy and green Western Washington.)
“It was a county record or a state record, I forget which.”
“Did you hear it sing?” (Their voices ring like a steel hammer striking granite.)
“That’s how we found it.”
Dad is one of the happiest people I know. At 85, he lives alone—Mom, his beloved best friend, died in 2011, which if you’ve followed this blog, you might remember is the same year Richard died. (Mom died in February and my love in November. It was a really sucky year.)
Mom and Dad were married almost 59 years, and Mom had been Dad’s second pair of eyes since he lost two-thirds of his vision to glaucoma in his early 70s. Without Mom, Dad was living alone near Denver, a three-hour-drive from me.
In the summer of 2012, I convinced Dad to enroll in a residential training program for visually impaired Vets at a VA Hospital near Tacoma, Washington, which happened to be within a 40-minute drive of my brother and his family.
I figured Dad would learn what he needed to be safer living alone and would enjoy the time with Bill’s three girls and their five kids, Dad’s great-grandchildren. He did, so much so that before he came home, he toured a senior village with my brother, put down a deposit on an apartment, and came home ready to move.
(That is, ready for me to make the move happen. I am the daughter, after all.)
I did, and he settled in happily, learning the walking routes in his new neighborhood, enjoying the flowers and birdsong, the opportunity to hear my sister-in-law, Lucy, play with the Olympia Symphony, be enfolded in family events, and work on his bird research.
(Dad has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Cal-Berkeley and developed drugs for a living; studying birds has been his passion since he retired.)
I hope I weather life’s challenges as well as Dad has, and that I have enough of his cheerful good nature and sense of purpose to stay actively engaged in the work I love all of my days. Thanks, Dad!
Those other two great dads? Richard, the love of my life and my husband for nearly 29 years, and my brother, Bill.
When I met Richard, he came with then-three-year-old Molly, a package joined at the heart. He had a lot to learn about being a dad, some of which he learned easily, some the hard way, by stubbornly insisting he was right until he proved himself wrong.
But his complete and total love for Molly was never in doubt. Molly returned that love in spades when her daddy came home into hospice care: She took leave from her work in advertising and her home in San Francisco and moved in with us. Her company was the greatest gift Molly could have given her daddy (and me).
My brother, Bill has been, as I wrote in my memoir, Walking Nature Home, “my North Star” for parenting. He raised three amazing girls, part of the time with the older two as a single parent who “hauled himself out of bed, groggy and unshaven, to cook eggs and toast bread for their breakfast”; he now has five grandchildren.
Whenever Bill talks about any of them, he just lights up. Being a good dad and granddad, he told me once, is right up there with loving my sister-in-law Lucy, “the things I’m proudest of in my life.”
So Happy Father’s Day to my three favorite dads. And to all the dads out there, everywhere. Thanks for loving us, each in your own way.