When you were five years old, who was your hero? What do you think of that person today?
Like many little girls, when I was five, my hero was my dad. I could not imagine life without him. He worked d hard to provide for us, but always had time for us. His family meant everything to him and he was happiest when we were all together.
He encouraged us to achieve in school, so proud when we graduated from college, an opportunity he never had. He was there for all the important events in our lives. He taught me how to swim and how to drive, how to bait a fishing hook, hang tinsel on a Christmas tree and change the oil in my car. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, was always there to listen and advise.
He loved our annual vacations when we would load up the Ford station wagon and set out to explore all the lower 48 states, Canada and Mexico. We watched Old Faithful erupt under a star-studded sky, ate dinner out of a chuck wagon with the cowboys in North Dakota, were avid cave spelunkers, gazed into the Grand Canyon, danced with Native Americans, climbed to the top of the world in Jasper Alberta, Canada, watched fireworks over the ocean in Long Beach California, had a snowball fight on the fourth of July in the Grand Teton Mountains. These experiences combined to form the kind of person I became.
And the one thing I feared the most in life would be to see any sign of disappointment in me mirrored in his eyes. I am proud that I never let him down. He died in 1994 at the age of 74, of congestive heart failure. I spent several days helping my family prepare for the funeral, and then drove home to get my family ready. That’s when the flood gates failed and I could no longer stop the tears. I cried an ocean on that 30 minute trip, but it still took a long time to come to terms with his death. I would come across something and think, “I’ll show that to dad,” and then suddenly remember he was gone.
Today, I think of him as my hero, and my guardian angel rolled into one. And somewhere in time, maybe in a parallel universe, a little girl stands on a table top, her father standing near. She believes he will be there always to take care of her. He looks at her with love and pride in his eyes. He is her hero and always will be, somewhere in time…