It's Father's Day, and I want to talk about my dad. It's also late, and I really ought to go to bed. So this will not be eloquent or terribly profound. But it will be heartfelt.
I love my dad. The older I get, the more I am in awe of what he did for my siblings and I as our father. When I was young, I thought he was too strict, and I wasn't so sure he really understood me. Now that I am trying to raise eight kids, I understand where he was coming from, and I am so grateful that I had a father that supported and loved me. He truly was the wind beneath my wings as I was growing up, which fact I really did not notice then, but do now.
My dad is now 84 years old. I am not sure how that happened. He is in good health, but he is slower and travel is becoming very difficult. I sure would like for him to be able to come visit us in Kansas, but that is not very likely. I miss him.
This last trip to Utah in April I got to spend a morning with him-- just the two of us at his house. He fixed me food and we talked-- mostly about family history. We looked at family pictures on the computer. It was glorious and precious.
When I think back over my life, the memory about my dad that jumps out at me first is the hike I went with him up Mount Timpanogos when I was nine years old. I grew up in Minnesota, but we always drove out to Utah every summer for two weeks of visiting relatives and spending as much time hiking and camping in the mountains as we could manage. Hiking Timp is a big deal: it takes all day and the summit is at 11,750 feet. The summer of 1988 was to be my first time up there after hearing about it my whole life. A big group of assorted extended family members started out from Aspen Grove first thing in the morning. I enjoyed the hike very much until we got to the last stretch. Most of the hike takes place in a series of glacial cirques on the back side of the mountain; there are meadows and trees and waterfalls. Then you reach a point called the Saddle, where you cross over to the steep, rocky front face. You are now above timberline and you are surrounded by nothing but rock and wind and scary dropoffs. I was terrified. I did not think I could go on. My Dad reached out and took my hand. Holding on to him, looking straight down at my feet, and whimpering a little, I managed to finish the hike. He never got impatient or frustrated with me, he just kept holding onto my hand and leading me forward. It didn't seem like a very big deal at the time, but it says something that when I think about my Dad that's the first thing I think of.
Another memory of my Dad that stands out to me is something that occurred when I was in 9th grade. The high school I was attending had a very renowned choral music program which I was a part of. I was in their elite, audition-only choir and I felt like that was pretty cool. We sang some pretty challenging music, after all. In the spring we were having a big combined concert with all the choirs in the area. We were learning this very magnificent and powerful version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It wasn't easy, so we were really working hard at it and it was starting to sound really good. One day I was talking to my dad about it, and he told me that yeah, he knew the arrangement I was talking about. In fact, he had sung it when he was in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I'd grown up hearing about how my dad had sung in the Tabernacle Choir, but I hadn't really heard any details. Now, my Dad told me that when the Tabernacle Choir was singing this particular arrangement of Battle Hymn in the late 1950's, it actually got to the top of the hit parade. To a 14-year-old who listened to a lot of American Top 40, this was shocking and really, really cool. Then he said that they had actually won a Grammy award for that song. My jaw dropped even more. He had even been part of the group of choir members that had traveled to Los Angeles for that event and to perform the song on the Ed Sullivan Show. You know that moment when you're in elementary school and you run into your teacher at the grocery store and it suddenly dawns on you that she has a life outside of being Mrs. Smith in your first grade classroom? That conversation with my dad was the moment when I really internalized that he had had a life other than being my Dad, a life where he had done a lot of really cool things. I mean, I knew he had a life-- he had a job he went to every day at the university, he had been Bishop of our ward... but those were just part of his Dad-ness, they were ordinary. Now I suddenly understood that my Dad was an extraordinary person.
Those are just two of many memories that I have, but they are the two that stand out the most and I wanted to write them down. Happy Father's Day, Dad. I am so grateful to be your daughter.