Once when I was a little child, I woke up in the night with a tummy ache. I got out of bed and went into the living room, following the sounds of the television. My dad was still awake. To me it seemed like my dad never slept, like he was just sitting there in the living room waiting to see if anyone needed help in the dark of night. He was probably just staying up until midnight, but that may as well have been four in the morning in my little girl mind. He waved me over to him. He listened to my plight. And he did a very un-mom-like thing. He suggested we walk around the living room. He told me my tummy would feel better after a little walk. And he took my hand and we walked around in small circles on the brown 80s carpet with the black of a country night pressing in through the uncovered windows. But, I couldn’t care less about the howling coyotes that often made me tremble in my bed. I was walking with my daddy. Even I thought this was a weird solution to my stomach issues. But, somehow, after a few minutes, I felt better. He took me back to my bed and I remember how wonderful those cool sheets felt and how even the shadows in my room seemed friendly while my dad tucked me in and tenderly asked if I thought I was going to be alright. I nodded yes, and he retreated to the world of dads at night while I drifted off with the reassuring sound of the TV in the distance.
Now I’m grown and I’ve learned that there’s so much about my dad to admire and love and try to live up to. Much more than I understood that night in our living room. Yet, that experience is such a picture of how my dad has always made me feel. Important. Worth listening to. Capable of handling things. And loved. Always loved.
He is a hero in my life. He taught me what a dad should be. He taught me who I should be. And some nights when I start getting that feeling of dread or worry that darkness can sometimes bring, it helps a little to picture my dad, sitting in the same spot, keeping watch over the night while the coyotes howl outside the same big windows. Even when I am far away, the thought makes the shadows look just a little friendlier.