My parents divorced when I was very young, but throughout my childhood I remained very close with my father. When I was young, high-school aged, we talked on the telephone almost every day. He lived in Canada and I in Utah, so the means in which we were able to nurture a close relationship was during our short summer visits and to share our lives via phone. I remember discussing with him experiences from my day, daily jibber-jabber that most teenagers are fascinated with and most certainly the kind of talk parents get easily bored with. Nonetheless, my dad was always interested and eager to hear about my life and also my feelings about life. He offered great counsel and validation for a young girl struggling to find her place in this world. He was a blessing to me in a huge way as he always made me feel important even though deep down, I didn’t.
On August 23rd 1993 my father passed away after struggling with a long series of illnesses. I missed him, I loved him and I needed him. Years later I ran across a cassette tape with old answering machine recordings on it. In those days the answering machines were not built into your phone like voice mail is today, they were external pieces of equipment that actually recorded the messages onto a cassette tape. So I popped the cassette into my tape deck (again, a piece of equipment from the past) and began listening. After a few minutes of listen to rather meaningless messages from friends and boyfriends I heard the expected in between messages ‘BEEP’ followed with heavy breathing and a pause… I knew it was my beloved father…. my heart paused in excitement to hear his voice again, then… a loud gregarious belch and ‘HANGUP.’ I immediately began laughing as I knew exactly who that was. My father was a jokester, the best prankster known to man. He was always up for a laugh even at the expense of being ill mannered. That was my dad, my loving, caring, affectionate and larger than life dad. I was brought back to that moment in time when that sweet phone belch use to make me feel so special. I stopped the tape and sat on my floor utterly enjoying the moment with tears in my eyes, absorbing the flood of feelings as I remembered the warmth and affection of my loving father.
WHAT I LEARNED from this experience is that sometimes it is the little, simple things that mean the most. Sometimes the way in which we show love and affection is passionate and sincere but other times a simple belch on the recorder will do the trick. Though my father was a passionate loving man and easily expressed his affection to me and others. He was also great at showing it in other ways as well. That phone belch will rest in my memory as a very simple yet effective way of my father expressing to me, in his own way that he was thinking about me, loved me and cared for me deeply.
One of my favorite quotes about parenting is from Alvin Prince that said “Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.” That was my father, always filling others’ buckets.
Interestingly the lessons I learned from my father about loving others has made an abiding impression upon me about the importance of fathers (and mothers) and their expression of love towards their children. In many ways as a mother I have been influenced by my late father who showed me in vibrant colors the importance of loving others and showing it. Sometimes it is by small and simple means (Alma 37:6) that we share affection to those we love and other times overflowing and consuming, the important thing is that we do it. I love my father and miss him greatly. I am so very grateful for the many lessons he taught me, especially for the lessons about relationships and paramount ways that I am worth loving, for he loved me abundantly and I knew it.