Last week Dad took me with him to a town called Winchester. For his work he had to take some field strength measurements there and at some places along the way. I don’t know much about field strength measurements, but I do know about my dad.
One of the things I know is that he likes to take me places and do stuff with me. On the way to Winchester, for instance, we stopped and hiked across a big field with yellow flowers to a real pretty waterfall. We waded in the shallow parts of the pool under the falls and talked and laughed at a squirrel that was scolding us worse than Mom did the day Dad and I rode my go-cart down the steep part of Willow Lane and crashed through out little white picket fence and into her daffodils.
Another thing I know about Dad is that he loves Mom. He always opens the car door for her and helps her wash dishes and takes her on dates and hugs her a lot.
And he never yells. Well, almost never. I can only remember three times he did. One was at my soccer game when I made a winning goal. He ran out onto the field, put me on his shoulders, and hooted like he did the day my baby sister, Patience, was born. That was the second time he yelled. The third time was when our cat, Guinevere, ate Aristotle, his sixty-five-dollar tropical fish.
I know other things about Dad, too: He likes to jog, and he counts to ten a lot (like when he hammers his finger or steps on my baby sister’s loud, squeaky toys when he’s trying to tiptoe out of her room at night). He likes country-western music and Mom’s cheese enchiladas, but he hates cauliflower as much as I do. And he cries sometimes when he goes to Sky Hill, where Grandma and Grandpa are buried. They’re Dad’s mother and father, and they died in a plane crash about three years ago.
Something I don’t know about Dad is why he doesn’t go to church with Mom and me anymore. Oh, he still takes us to church, but it’s just to drop us off. Sometimes when kids ask me why he doesn’t come to church, I pretend I don’t hear them or I just say that I don’t know. I feel bad—not because their dads are there and mine isn’t, but because, well, because I love him a lot and I want him to be with us. It’s hard to explain. It’s just that Dad’s part of Mom and Patience and me, and we’re part of him. And what are families for if it’s not to be together? I get lonely, sort of, deep inside. As I said, it’s hard to explain.
Dad sometimes goes to pack meetings at the ward with me—when I earn a Scouting achievement award or when we have our Pinewood Derby. But that’s about all.
Once, when we were flying my kite behind the school, I asked him why he didn’t go to church with Mom and me. He looked like I did the time Mom asked who tracked mud across her clean carpet. But he just gave a little tug on the kite string and said, “Look at that thing climb, Arny!” And I knew better than to ask him again.
I know that Dad thinks about Church, though. And about God and Jesus. I know because when I was baptized, Dad was there, sitting right next to Mom and Uncle Henry, and he squeezed me afterward in a way that I will never forget. I can still feel it. There were tears in his eyes and the same kind of look that he had the day I scored at that soccer game and the Sunday Bishop Huxley blessed my baby sister. And I know because when my pet lizard died, Dad said that God would look after it, that Heavenly Father wouldn’t have taken the time to make something that He didn’t love.
When I asked Mom if she thought Dad would ever go to church again, her eyes shone as brightly as Aunt Margaret’s rosewood music box, and her chin jiggled like it does every time she bears her testimony. She said that she hoped that he would and that until then we should go on loving and supporting him as he does us and letting him know every day that we think he’s the greatest guy on earth.
“That won’t be hard,” I said, “because he is!”