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My Most Unforgettable Character

Do you remember "My Most Unforgettable Character" from Readers' Digest? It was a staple of the magazine when I was a kid. The portraits of people who were sometimes intriguing, sometimes unusual, and often heartwarming were always interesting to read. I don't think I can select just one "unforgettable character" in my life. Without hesitation, though, I can say that one of the most memorable people I've known was my dad.

Today being the anniversary of his birth, I thought I'd write a little something about him. The fact that I've singled him out in this context is a bit ironic. You see, when I was growing up, he and I didn't have much of a relationship. It wasn't that we didn't get along, or disliked each other - we just didn't have a lot of opportunities to connect because my father, a noted civil engineer, wasn't around much.

The projects he was involved with (such as the massive transformation of Chicago's O'Hare Field into a jet-age airport) demanded extremely long hours. He left the house in the morning before I got up, and often didn't return until after I'd gone to bed. 

Sometimes, construction projects were out of state. In those cases, we might only see him one or two weekends a month for the duration of the job. Inevitably, by the time I was in high school we didn't have a lot to say to one another. Everything changed when my mother - with whom I was extremely close - suffered a debilitating stroke. After graduating from college,  I'd stop by their house each weekend to wash her hair, give her a manicure, and do some cleaning.

Dad and I would chat.

Out of the terrible reality of my mom's dramatically altered situation, the seeds of a silver lining were sown; my father and I began to re-establish our relationship.

As I neared my 30th birthday, I wanted to visit our nation's capital, never having been there. My husband's schedule didn't allow for him to go, and I didn't want to make the trip alone - so I decided to ask my father if he might be interested in joining me for a weekend in Washington. Having spent a great deal of time there throughout his career, I figured he'd be a good guide. Still, I may have surprised myself by posing the question.

Three days with Dad? MY Dad? Would we have enough to talk about? Would it be fun - or terribly awkward? My father didn't hesitate to accept. Off we went to D.C. -  and had a great time. I learned that he was an easygoing travel companion who was up for just about anything; so began a series of enjoyable excursions over the years.

As time progressed, I discovered how much we had in common. We talked ever more frequently. We started to go out for breakfast on Sundays after church. I began to feel nearly as close to him as I did to my mother.

After she passed away, my dad and I forged an even stronger bond. Until his death recently, I counted him as one of my dearest friends. What an amazing, unbelievable second chance we were given. For his many noteworthy career achievements, his sound judgment, his exceptional integrity, his deep faith, and his good humor, my father is an unforgettable character - not just to me, but to many others as well.

Beyond that, though, it's the opportunity we had to start over - and the connection that developed as a result of it - that's truly remarkable.

What an unforgettable blessing!


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