When I was 20 years old, I walked out of a train station terminal and into the parking lot. My father sat in the cab of his truck, waiting patiently to pick me up.
As I walked into the sunshine flooded parking lot, I noticed a family. A woman a few years older than me handed her toddler to a man who was clearly the woman's father.
"Hm," I thought, "I really need to have a kid soon before my dad dies."
A few clarifying points are needed. I was not married. I did not have a boyfriend. I lived at home. My father was not sick.
This thought had simply dropped out of the heavens and into my brain. Still, I knew in my gut that this was something I desperately wanted. A gift I desperately wanted to give my father.
Actually, desperate doesn't even begin to describe it given my relationship track record at the time. I've dated a lot of losers. The odds of me having a child, ever, seemed slim. Still, it was crucial to me that I have a chance to see my father with my kids.
My father worked a lot of my childhood. At times he had four jobs to make ends meet. Still, my childhood is littered with memories of him. We were never second to work, we were simply the reason he worked. He made sure to attend our sporting events. He was always at our plays. He made time to play road runner and coyote with us.
Every kid who grew up with us will tell you to this day: road runner and coyote is the single best game on the face of the planet. My father was the only one capable of being our coyote. It is a game of his invention.
My father did not take crap. Not even a little bit of crap. Not one ounce. Even so, I never doubted he loved us. I never doubted he was proud of us. I knew he would love being a grandfather.
A year passed. I met a man. I fell in love. I got engaged.
Months passed as we planned a wedding. Eventually, I stood alone on a staircase, waiting to walk down the aisle. Alone in a flurry of activity. Nervous for a the first and only moment before my wedding. My father walked up those stairs and all my fears fell away. He stood quietly before me and I knew I would be safe.
My father gazed calmly into my eyes and said, "I am so happy for you. I'm so happy you said yes. But I will never give you away. You will always be my daughter. I could never give you away." He kissed me and walked me down the aisle. He shook David's hand. Congratulated him. We got married.
In the ensuing years, a voice whispered to me, "You owe your father a gift. Give him something back for all he gave you." Still, we waited until the timing seemed right. More months passed. We got pregnant. I called home to tell my father the news as soon as we'd confirmed the baby was healthy. My father, without missing a beat, said, "So what are you going to do about it?" I laughed. Told him I was going to keep the baby. He stammered, trying to explain that wasn't what he meant. He was concerned because we lived in a one bedroom condo and had so much to do to get ready for a baby. I was concerned he wasn't excited.
A week later he called and without a moment of pause asked how his grandchild was doing. In that moment, I knew he'd been giddy for a week. I found out he'd been spreading the news to his co-workers. From that moment onward, his joy has been palpable.
The day Alex was born, my father cautiously cradled his grandson in his arms and whispered words of love into his ear. He returned to the hospital the next day to press Alex softly to his chest and tell him once again how thrilled he was to meet him. He was fully, completely, unabashedly in love with his grandson.
That love has only blossomed with time. My father often sidles up to me to whisper, "Alex ate all his lunch. Can I give him some chocolate milk?" I consent and they delight in sharing a glass. Then they rush off to chase the cat around the house.
Alex loves his grandfather every bit as much as he is loved in return. The two of them wander about oblivious that anyone else exists. That is how happy they are to be together. My father and my son are the best of friends.
That intimate bond is possibly the greatest thing I have ever seen. Turns out the gift was really for me.
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