My dad lifted me on to the kitchen island, walked all the way to the living room, put his arms out and said, “Okay. You ready? 1, 2, 3, jump!”
This was sort of our thing. He’d put me in high places and I’d jump into his arms.
I’m not big on taking physical risks, never have been. I’d be hard pressed to hoist over a chain link fence that’s as high as my waist. I’m hesitant, slow, awkward and there’s a 100% chance I’ll slip and slam my crotch on the top bar.
My point is, you won’t see me navigating a ropes course, or taking Cross Fit selfies, of my own free will, any time soon.
But when I was a child, that tepidness didn’t exist if my dad was with me. When weighing pros and cons, there were no cons. No fear. My father would always catch me. I was free to leap.
Granted, he wasn’t the best teacher, at least in the conventional sense. I didn’t sit on his knee and glean wisdom. I didn’t crouch by his side and learn how to change a tire, throw a ball in the backyard or learn how to balance a checkbook. He wasn’t heavy into discipline and character building. Those are wonderful fatherly gestures and responsibilities, but it wasn’t him.
Toni Morrison said, “When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” And I know exactly what she means. Because that’s what I found when I walked in a room that had my dad in it. I was the most delightful thing he had ever seen, and I was just stopping by, looking for mom.
So when he was standing yards away, arms out, encouraging me to jump, I didn’t flinch. In fact, I was impressed with his skills. I dipped low, leaned back on my heels, and prepared for launch only to be startled by his man-scream. “No! No, no, no, no, don’t jump!” he yelled. I paused and furrowed my brow. He ran to me, laughing and spun me off the island. “Annie, I was just teasing! That’s too far to jump. Daddy can’t catch you from that far away.”
Really? It had never occurred to me.
Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I gave my dad a generous gift certificate to a car wash. In my defense, he’s a horrible person to shop for. He has everything he wants and doesn’t care about much else. But even so, that little gift card, tucked in its tiny little envelope seemed a little chintzy. Especially when you consider he’s given me the coolest gift my entire life – a lit up room to leap in.