I have these images of my father that keep coming back to me.
We're driving southbound on Milwaukee Avenue. We're at a stoplight. It's summertime, and I'm probably four years of age. He looks over at me. For some reason, he's smiling. The moment makes me confused.
'Why is he smiling?'
"Dad, why are you smiling?" I'd ask. "No reason." he'd respond. "Just happy you're here."
These moments happened a lot. My father, who in one breath could be converted into a seething lunatic, took these moments to appreciate our life. One second he'd be yelling at the TV, raving about a non-call in a sporting event...and then the next moment, he'd be cracking a joke or giving us a hug.
These moments finally make sense. I have been lucky to be the father of two wonderful children. My son, Jack, is three years of age. Fiona, my daughter, is 19 months old. I find myself looking at them and smiling for no reason.
It only took a couple of years, but now I know why my dad was smiling.
Tonight, on this Christmas Eve, we opened gifts with my in-laws. Every Christmas is special, but sometimes little moments stand out.
My brother-in-law returned from his honeymoon in South Africa with various presents. One of the presents was authentic rugby jerseys; each of the guys got one.
Jack got a small rugby jersey. To mark the moment, we got together for a quick family picture; just us in our jerseys. The four of us leaned in, and while my wife fumbled with the camera, Jack made one more adjustment.
Just before my wife snapped the photo, Jack put his arm around my shoulder.
This gesture isn't something Jack does. Not with me. We're still close: our time with each other is usually relegated to wrestling, sports, and story time...oh, and the occasional show on Disney Jr.
But even with all of the time we spend with each other, Jack's action to put his arm around my shoulder meant more to me than anything he's ever done.
This was more important than his first steps, his first word, or the first time he said, "I love you."
The moment said, "You're the best, you're my friend, you're my best buddy...that's why I'm putting my arm around your shoulder...you're my daddy. I love you."
The moment lasted all but five seconds. Yet, it's stayed in my head all evening. It's 10:35 p.m. It all took place around 8:00. It still makes me grateful.
Tonight, I finally get what my dad was feeling when he drove me around as a little kid.
These moments are fleeting. Because of that,I'll hold onto this moment for awhile.