Once upon a time when I was a little girl my daddy told me a story.
It was bedtime and he stooped down while I climbed up on the couch and reached my arms up as high as I could, all the way up to his shoulders. He grabbed my hands and pulled me up the rest of the way and I wrapped my arms around his neck and peaked over his shoulder as he gave me a piggy back ride down the hall and around the corner all the way to my room and swung me around to land softly in the middle of the great big bed I shared with my older sister. And when I was snuggled under the quilt my grandmother had made he began the story in his slow Texas drawl with that rumbling baritone voice of his....
O-o-o-nce upon a ti-i-i-me ....when I-I-I-I was a little bo-o-oy....
I was transported to a different place and time and tried to imagine what the world looked like through my father's eyes when he was young. The story was always about something silly that happened to him and it always ended with a giggle.
And I went to sleep feeling safe and warm and the world was full of fun.
I thought a lot about my daddy as Father's Day approached. Not only because of Father's Day, but because he'd just told us he'd been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and we were waiting to find out more details about his condition.
I had just made a donation in support of Crystal Chappell and Michelle Carter as they ran a half-marathon to help raise funds for Leukemia/Lymphoma research when I heard about this. At the time I was thinking of my neice who was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was four. She just got her masters degree and started a new job in her field. I had no idea my father would be facing this in only a matter of days.
I typed the news of Dad's diagnosis into Twitter and Facebook, reaching out to friends I talk to every day online to share my concerns with them and ask for prayers. I was overwhelmed by the response. In a matter of minutes people all over the world were praying for my dad. Hundreds of people, from all walks of life, offered me their support and I'm grateful for each one of them and the many ways they have blessed me. During the next few days, as we waited for more news, they continued to ask about him and offer me encouragement.
There are few things my father enjoys more than meeting people and making new friends. I can't count the number of times I waited with my family, long after a church service or banquet had concluded, while Dad was still talking with someone, hearing his booming laughter ring out even as the lights were being turned off in the building. Well, usually, the others were waiting in the car while I was tagging along with Dad because I wanted to meet them, too! Maybe it was on one of these occasions when he told me to live life on tip toe, like a little kid peering over the crowd at the parade to see what all the excitement is about.
People and their stories fascinate Dad and he's been collecting them both all his life. It's only fitting that he's on Twitter and Facebook now. Not many almost-81-year-olds can say that, I'll bet.
I remember when my dad first told me he thought I could be a writer. I don't recall how the conversation started exactly. We were driving home from church and I was leaning up from the back seat, peaking over his shoulder as he drove. He looked at me in the rear view mirror as though he'd never considered the possibility before and said, "I think you'd be a good writer. Yeah, I can see you doing that!" He talked about how I noticed things and that's something a writer does.
Now he says he shudders to think of what stories I might tell about him in that book I'll write someday!
On the Friday before Father's Day, my brother called me. He was visiting Dad and got him on the phone with me and my sister so we could all hear the oncologist's report at once. This story has a happy ending. Dad's lymphoma is the "easily manageable, slow growing kind". They'll do an MRI and CT scan, just to be sure, but no treatment is required. He'll go back in six months for a check-up and they'll keep an eye on him.
Once again, we listened as Dad told us his story.
And there was laughter.
And I went to sleep feeling safe and warm
... and the world is full of fun.
I can see it if I stand on tip toe.