I'm thinking about my dad today. About his life story thus far and about all the things that make him who he is today. What kind of things he has seen in his lifetime. What he has heard. What kind of music moves him and what kind of environment is his very own sense of place. I am wondering about his life. About his youth and the things that he endured and saw. I am thinking about him being a young man and visiting a strange land and having to wonder about his own survival. I am thinking of my own understanding of the world at my age now...how I am already 26 and how, by this time in his own life...he had been exposed to so much more. So much more about life and death and the reality of our world. About human strength and weakness and war and love. I wonder about what he knows and about what he has seen. I think about his courage. About him being so conscientious in his service. About him taking a stand for what he knew was of value. I think of his reverence for life and his amazing ability to trust...I mean really trust. With each one of his daughters, he never pushed us to learn...he never interrupted our learning with "advice" of his own. He trusted. He let us live. He knew that we were on our own path and that we would make of our life what we were supposed to make of it. I think of what it is that he has...his gentleness. How all of my friends always ask..."does he ever get MAD?". I think about the lessons I have learned from him...about subtle wisdom that seeps into our conversations and stretches out in my heart...often guiding me through moments of hardship and confusion. I think of how he has never told me what or how to think. Instead, he has asked me what I think. He has encouraged me to find my own way and has trusted me to do my best. He has certainly taught me things...through his own example of living...not by spelling it out for me but by living his truth. He has given me great truth on accepting different beliefs and ideas, about not putting myself above others...for we are all on our own journey. I'm thinking specifically about moments that stand out to me. About mini adventures where I was free to roam. About "I'm a little teacup" and before bed time back rubs. I am thinking about when he bought me moccasins and when he came to talk to me about the food fight I had gotten in during lunch in the 6th grade. I am thinking about his calm and strength when I called him at work sobbing...a scared and heartbroken 14 year old who was begging her dad to not make her move away from her home. I am thinking about his support through my high school years...how he always told me how proud he was and how he always expected good things...how he saw enough in me to support my adventures. I am thinking of how he went up to my college town with me before it was "mine" and slept in a dorm room overnight and made a model of his hand letting go of mine as I took those new steps into adulthood. I always wonder about what he has that makes it look so easy to focus on the beautiful things in life. While he never has told me what to think or believe...I do remember a unique time in which he told me how to feel. I was 22...just out of college...young and single and had just discovered I was pregnant. In tears, and searching for strength, I told he and my mom that I didn't know how to feel. Without missing a beat, my dad stood up, with his own tears in his eyes, and told me I should feel like a mama. With joy he hugged me and congratulated me for this goodness. And the wonderful thing about him is that I know he really did feel joy for me...amidst whatever else may have come into his spectrum of emotions...and THAT is what he chose to focus on. It is that kind of wisdom that I think about today. About how he encompasses these truths that I try so hard to grasp and hold on to. About ways that he brings about change in this world...just by being who he is and honoring what he knows. I think about the times where he has spoken to me words that drift down deep. The ones that I do my best to water and grow so that they take root in my own life. There are words that he has spoken throughout my entire life time to me...some of them, I am sure, have unfortunately been lost in my own sea of sorting and understanding. But others really stay with me...they really bring light into my world and shape my perspective in a way that leaves me feeling like a better person. Something that my dad casually whispered to me a couple of years ago that clings to my soul through struggles and defiance is this..."keep your heart soft, Jess.". And today I think about his heart...and how much longer he has walked this earth than I...and specifically about walking through a time of war so closely...so intimately...that it surely held the potential to turn a heart hard. And I think about what it is in him that has enabled him to keep a soft heart...to create in him this life that holds such gentle strength and trust and wisdom and acceptance and love. I wonder about what guides him into being the kind of human that guides so many others. I am thinking about you today, Dad and I want you to know how greatly you are loved. I know that we speak those words freely to one another...but I want to say it here...on this day...because it is a day of observance. I want you to know that I observe you...that I learn so much through you...and that today, like any other day, I honor your story. A story so beautiful and true. A story that has led up to this amazing man that I call Dad.