By Melissa Face
My children spot their grandparents’ vehicle from an upstairs window. They drop their iPads and tablets and run to the front door where they press their smiling faces against the glass. My mom gets out of the car with her bag of treats and walks toward the front porch.
“Where is Pop?” Delaney asks Evan.
“Maybe he’s getting something out of the trunk,” Evan replies.
“I don’t see him,” she says.
My mom rings the doorbell and the kids open the door and ask, together, “Where’s Pop?”
“He’s playing golf,” she tells them. “It’s just me today.”
“Aw, man! I had some things I needed to show him,” Evan says.
If my mom is offended by the overt snub, it doesn’t show. When Pop is around, he is the star, the rest of us just extras. My children compete for his attention and work to impress him with the most recent trick they’ve learned: a cartwheel, a cannonball in the pool, or a knock-knock joke.
“Pop! Come watch me ride my bike!”
“Do you want to play outside with me?”
“Pop! Let’s go to my room and look at stuff!”
They hold his hand, sit in his lap, and wrap their arms around his neck. When each visit comes to an end, they cling to him and beg him to stay.
“Just a few more minutes, Pop,” Delaney says. “I need to show you one more thing in my room.”
He agrees and climbs the stairs to my daughter’s room where she shows him her belongings with the detailed explanation of a museum curator. He examines the tiny bottles of glittery nail polish and cat figurines with awe and pretends to be seeing them all for the first time.
“On your way out, can you just look at something on my bike?” Evan asks.
“I reckon I can,” Pop laughs.
“See this attachment? Now when I pedal my bike, it sounds like an engine! Listen, Pop!”
Evan speeds across the yard and shows Pop his tricks. He stands, then lets go of his hands, as he escorts Pop to his car.
“Please. Take me with you,” Evan begs. “I won’t talk or even make a sound. I’ll just sit in the corner.”
“Not this time,” I tell him. “I want to see Pop by myself.”
I don’t do it often, but sometimes I need to visit my dad alone. We eat take-out and chat about the pandemic, world issues, and a personal situation that is bothering me. I don’t need him to fix this particular problem, only listen. He does, and I feel better immediately.
There were times when I did need my dad to fix things, though. He once climbed under my bed to console me when I was a child, and he waited patiently through teenage sobbing to tell me that no boy was worth my tears. He made small repairs to my car each time I came home on college breaks and checked the air in my tires before I left again. He helped me move into my first apartment and stayed a few days to assemble, straighten, and adjust my new furniture.
Even as an adult, a visit to my house usually includes my dad tightening a wiggly door handle, repairing an appliance, or fixing a grandchild’s toy. When it comes to household items and my spirits, my dad simply makes everything better.
In this stage of our relationship, I value my dad as both parent and friend. I am grateful for his humor, wisdom, and calm demeanor, a part of my life that has remained constant when few things have. I am glad he and my children are close, and I understand, better than anyone, when they complain that visits with him never last long enough.
***Previously published in Prairie Times, Nov. 2020.