I’m sitting here on Father’s Day Eve, filled with gratitude for the fathers in my life. I’m grateful for my own father – who encouraged me to learn and create and travel and be brave and push my body to climb mountains – and set an example with his own life. I’m grateful to my sons’ father – my husband – my partner in parenting – the sons’ coach, teacher, mentor, protector.
My first memory features Dad. I was two years-old. I took one step too many in the local swimming hole and went in over my head. I remember trying to walk back up to the shore, but my feet wouldn’t move me forward. I opened my mouth to scream, but I was under water and no sound came out. A minute more and I might not be here. But Dad had seen me go under, and came out to get me. He yanked me out of the water by my pony tails and brought me back safely to terra firma.
My husband performed a similar act of heroism with our eldest son. We were visiting a friend who had a swimming pool that she’d turned into a koi pond. One minute our three year-old was standing at the edge of the pool, the next minute we heard a splash and he was gone. The pool was murky and deep, but my husband was quick thinking, and reached straight down into the pond, found our son, and yanked him out of there. He is my hero.
A happy Father’s Day to all the heroes out there who protect, and provide for, and cultivate the good in, their children. You rock!
Photo of husband and sons. Lincoln City, OR. Circa 1995.
Tomorrow will not only be Father’s Day, it will be my dad’s 97th birthday. My dad, Dee Molenaar, has lived a most amazing 97 years. He was born at the end of World War I, was alive when women got the right to vote, lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, saw men walk on the moon, and teared-up with pride for his country the night the first African-American was elected President. He has traveled on six of the seven continents (the only continent he somehow missed was Africa), climbed on the highest mountains in the world (and, with his climbing team, almost made the first summit of the second tallest one), painted paintings, written books, created maps, had his photos published in National Geographic, and hobnobbed with presidential candidates.
He and Mom are currently in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years. This has involved some down-sizing. Last weekend when I was at their place to help them pack up, Dad gave me the little backpack he’d bought in 1973 for his journey to Europe to climb in the Alps. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be able to bring that familiar little pack home with me. I always knew I was safe when I was climbing with the man who wore this pack. This is the pack Dad wore to the summit of Rainier when we’d climbed it together in 1977, and the same pack I’d followed up to the top of Mount Baker ten years later. This is the pack Dad wore when he’d taken hikes with my young sons and myself. There are a lot of fond memories attached to that pack.
For now, it is hanging from a hook in our family room. I know it doesn’t have any special magical powers or anything, but somehow just looking at it makes me feel safe.