Last week one of my best friends lost her step-father. Paul is the first of my friends’ parents’ generation, step or biological, to die… And I’ve been thinking a lot about this man who was a small, but constant, steady presence in my junior high and high school days. It’s funny how we tend to forget or ignore those small kindnesses that someone offers us until we realize that those kindnesses can no longer be given. Or that it doesn’t dawn on us just how much someone was watching over us, watching out for us until it’s clear that they can no longer do so.
I can’t tell you how many hours I sat at Sheri’s kitchen table, eating their food, filling their small home with my often-too-loud-and-rather-pointless chatter. Or the countless evenings I spent at the same table, studying algebra, chemistry, trigonometry, physics–because their house was quieter (Sheri didn’t have any younger siblings)–again, eating all their food in the process. I can’t tell you how many times Paul got out of his recliner during a good game to give me a ride home because I had stayed just a little to long after dark to walk home. Never once did he sigh in aggravation at the inturruption to his relaxation and missing a big inning or a key possession. Every time I hear Paul Harvey’s voice on the radio, I’m transported back to winter morning rides to school, climbing into Paul’s black pick-up truck with the vinyl seats still freezing cold, Harvey on the radio, and the volume always a little too loud.
Paul was more than just kind and patient, I think he enjoyed having us around. Eventually, most of us moved away and moved on. We rarely hung out at our parents’ houses anymore because we had homes of our own. And those people who were once a constant slowly become less instrumental in our daily existence. Paul was everything a good best-friend’s dad was supposed to be… His was another set of eyes and ears that were watching out for us, concerned for us, ready to give us a helping hand, or a ride to wherever, whenever we needed it. He was a part of that network of adults, a member of that collective unit of parents that all of kids knew cared about us.
And as we kids built our own lives and drifted and landed in different places, I suspect that his feelings of fondness for us remained. I know my fondness for him did. And for all those days and nights of small kindnesses, of meeting small parental obligations, of just doing those things that parents do–I am thankful.