Uplifting Dad

Dad has constantly lifted me. I could name a million examples.

Sometimes Dad lifted me just for fun. My first memories of this were between the ages of two and four. He would put both my feet in the palm of his hand, and then lift me up in a standing position so my head was above his -balancing me like a skilled circus performer. I'm now amazed at how this act would prove to be such a metaphoric snapshot of his role in my life.

A couple years later when I hit 35+ Lbs, Dad switched from the one-handed-ride to the shoulder-ride. He usually caught me by surprise. I would feel his hands wrap around my upper arms and swoop me up to a high perch on his shoulders. When he let go I'd feel unsteady until his big hands would quickly move down to wrap around my calves providing safety I'd trust more than any
seatbelt or airbag. This position on his shoulders regularly became my first-class seat at zoos, concerts, while apple-picking or anywhere my dad wanted me to be about 7' 2".

Sometimes Dad lifted me in rescue. Aside from the many boyhood falls where Dad picked me up off the ground, slapped the dust off my pants and cleaned my scrapes before sending me on my way, there were many times he made dramatic saves by lifting me.

One such time was at age 9 while we were our riding horses near the upstate New York country home where I was raised. We had a large barn with a small front door that was just high enough to clear the horses' backs. This means the top of the door would effectively scrap off any rider that tried to ride into the barn. Dad kept a barrel of fresh, aromatic oats just inside the barn door as a special treat for the horses. Horses love oats and our horses knew exactly where our stash was. Our rule was to keep the barn door closed during any horseback riding. This kept riders safe from a collision with the barn if a horse should see the open door and sprint for the oats. This day, for some reason, the barn door was left open and the horse I was riding saw it from a hundred yards and charged. I was terrified because my horse's lust for oats was clearly more powerful than my commands to "Stop!" I remember wind in my ears, flying mane, and seeing the dark square of the open barn door getting bigger. Then, incredibly, I was lifted from the horse by the back of my shirt. My dad had ridden up beside me on his faster, more obedient horse and pulled me to safety only a few yards from the door. A better stunt scene from a western movie has never been staged. Dad was heroic.

Later, because of my size, Dad's "lifts" changed from physical to emotional. This did not diminish their effect on me in any way. He acted (and still acts) as my #1 dependable and ever-wise advisor.

When I was in middle through high school he was strict. He insisted that I set high standards of behavior and academic achievement. A note sent home from a teacher with news of my misbehavior or grades he knew were not my best were each things I learned to avoid early. However, on the rare time when my school misbehavior (did I say rare?) required a parent visit, Dad would shock me by publicly taking my defense -when possible. On one occasion he lectured me for wrongdoing right before a meeting with my teacher. He felt I was sufficiently remorseful. He then privately spoke with my teacher and successfully lifted me from the more severe punishment she had planned.

Since college Dad continues to lift me in rescue. More than once he's simply used careful questions to help me realize the truth about a scam that has tempted me. He's lifted my spirits when I wrestle with a professional dilemma or tough interpersonal relationship. He offers invaluable counsel on every life decision for which I seek his advice.

He also continues to lift me high above his head in fun -boasting of his pride in me to any willing listener. He'll call me with news of an upcoming TV show or clip out an article he knows I'll love. When I have a success in life I call him to share it. He expresses his congratulations and pride then I get that sensation of him grinning up at me while I balance on his palm.

He's in his 60's today. He no longer tries to lift me up on one hand. Nor do I ride on his shoulders anymore. But at least several times each day, when I feel uncertain, I close my eyes and feel his big hands around my calves. Then I feel about 7' 2". Thanks, Dad. I hope all this truth gives you a lift.

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