A Father’s Touch

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We would spend hours outside playing in the cold. Eventually though, our hands and toes would begin to freeze, our noses would run, and our cheeks would turn bright red. By then even we knew it was time to go back inside and warm up. We would trudge in and start to peel off our wet outer clothes, kick off our heavy boots, and slip out of our soaked mittens. I recall my dad saying, “Come here and let me see your hands.” I lifted up my small outstretched hands, all cold and wet, and he took them into his own large hands, gently rubbing warmth into them. I looked up at him, and my eyes said, “Thank you, Dad, that feels so good.” He looked back at me, and his gentle eyes smiled and said, “You know I love you. You are my heart and soul, and I will always be here for you.”

This was an excerpt from a eulogy that my colleague, Kent Puffenberger, wrote for his father, Charles Granville Puffenberger (pictured), who passed at the age of 92. When I read it, I was incredibly moved by the impact that his father had upon his life. There were lessons about kindness, fortitude and dedication, but I was more so struck by the subtle moments of his past that clearly filled his heart to its brim. Memories of his dad’s love of westerns, mincemeat pie, grapefruit in the morning, British comedies, the Andy Griffith show, and the great outdoors remain as clear in Kent’s mind today as if he was sharing those moments with his beloved dad right now.

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I hesitated when I considered purchasing a generic plastic gift card for my own dad this year. Perhaps, there was something more I should do or say to thank my father for the “gifts” he has given me over the course of my life. I could thank him for the obvious; his military service, growing up in a lovely home, my college education, three years of law school, and a fantastic wedding. The list is truly endless. But what about the other things he gave me? What about the ones we sometimes easily overlook when we celebrate dads on Father’s Day? It is often a combination of life’s simpler moments that ultimately shape who we become. A fond memory that brings a smile about days gone by is certainly worthy of gratitude.

My own dad taught me how to laugh and to laugh often. Without my sense of humor, I don’t know how I would get through many of my days. To him I owe my ability to chuckle through some of life’s worst moments. He showed me the importance of looking forward in life, not back at the unchangeable. And he taught me lots of good stuff, just like Kent’s dad. I learned to love Bugs Bunny, play the piano and sing “Hello Dolly” loudly and off-tune, water ski sitting on his shoulders, and hide Monopoly game money under my side of the board in order to get the rest of the family mad enough to quit playing that endlessly long game.

fatherstouch2I know that Kent and his father openly shared their love for one another throughout their relationship. Near the close of the eulogy to his dad, Kent opined that the greatest gift his father had given him was the inspiration to be as good a father to his own children as his dad had been to him. He wrote: “I remember him coming in every night, no matter how late, and giving each of us a little kiss while we lay in bed. He may not have known but, although I may have looked asleep, I was really awake. Those little kisses meant a lot to me.” His father’s touch was calm, understanding and, most importantly, it was a constant throughout his life with his son.

Happy Father’s Day to all those dads that have touched our lives, and let’s remind them of the good things they’ve done.

Photo credit: Kent Puffenberger

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