There are all sorts of things I would never have expected to see in my lifetime: Drones. An entire store of Spanx in the Atlanta airport (I saw it with my own two eyes). President Trump. 3-D printers. Unicorn Frappucinos. Text messages from my almost 70 year-old dad.
Dad is one of the most principled people I know. He knows what he likes. He knows what he doesn’t like. Never will you see my Dad waffle. If he says he’ll be there, he’s there. He may show up early, but he’s never late. If he tells you he’s doing something, you never have to worry about it being done.
About a month ago, my stepdaughter graduated from college. From the moment I married Tim, my mother and stepfather and my dad and stepmother were all amazing and immediately accepted my stepchildren as family. So when my stepson graduated last December and my stepdaughter graduated in May, all four grandparents drove down from East Texas to attend the graduations.
In May, we had dinner with my Dad and stepmother Pam the night before graduation. We agreed to meet for a very early dinner at Matt’s El Rancho. Austin traffic was particularly awful that night, and we probably could have crawled on our hands and knees and gotten there faster. I knew Dad and Pam would be there on time or likely quite early. By the time we arrived, I was stressed and filled with road rage.
Once I had a margarita and ample queso, things were much better, and we had a lovely dinner together. When we gathered in the parking lot to say goodbye for the evening, my dad reached into his pocket and said,
“Well, we finally broke down and got these.” He held up a fancy new smart phone.
“Dad!” I said, proud and tickled. “Can I send you text messages now?”
“I’d prefer it if you don’t,” he said. “Unless it’s an emergency.”
I loved his response because it sums him up so perfectly. I laughed about it for days afterwards. Aw, Dad!
Graduation took place the next day in the same building where my dad graduated from UT. I loved watching him proudly sing “The Eyes of Texas” and watching him take photos of Stephanie as she walked the stage. After photos outside, we went to lunch, and another thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime took place. Together, to celebrate Stephanie’s huge accomplishment, all four of her grandparents on our side of the family sat at the same lunch table together. This was a huge first, and it meant so much to me that everyone was able to put Stephanie first. My sister and brother in-law were with us, and we caught up on their stories from their recent trip to Europe. I know that for my parents, who’ve been divorced for over 35 years, that sitting together for lunch was uncomfortable, but they did it just the same and it was big.
After lunch, we gathered outside for more photos and began to say our goodbyes. When I went in for a hug with Dad, he said quietly, “I’m proud of you in ways you will never understand.”
I’m sappy and I love declarations of love and pride, so that got to me and I started sobbing, effectively stealing the limelight from the poor graduate. Sorry, Stephanie!
I would’t say Dad and I have always been particularly close. Circumstances didn’t really lead to that, plus we’re both very headstrong. When I was just 8 years old, my Dad went from seeing me and my sister every day to only seeing us every other weekend and for longer stints on holidays and summer breaks. Now that I’m a parent, I understand how incredibly hard that must have been for him. I’m not sure declarations of love and pride come very naturally for my Dad, so hearing him say he was proud of me had an even bigger impact. Of course I know he loves me and he loves my sister, and I know he is proud of us. There’s one thing I know for sure: hearing it never gets old, and it’s never too late to say it.
By the next afternoon, Dad and Pam were back home, and my crew was headed up to North Texas for a family wedding. We stopped for a bathroom break and I checked my phone for messages, when another thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime flashed on my phone:
Doing this 2 show I can. Thanx 4 the pics. Luv u!
Yep, Dad was texting me! And using fun texty lingo to boot! Had I not been making a beeline for the Corsicana bakery bathroom I might have fallen over right there. Within a period of three short days, Dad had really thrown some pretty amazing curveballs my way, and I was absolutely loving it.
Before we started off, I stopped to reply.
I’m pleased to announce that since this momentous text exchange, Dad and I have texted several times since! I scream for Tim every time Dad texts me so I can read the messages out loud. I absolutely love it. For me, it’s terrific because my schedule doesn’t always allow for phone calls. It’s strange, but these texts make me feel closer to him, and I feel like texts could possibly give us an opportunity to communicate more often. I also love it because my Dad’s sense of humor is showing up, like the time he texted me this:
U R trying to trick me into texting.
I’m telling you, he’s a really smart man, because I am TOTALLY trying to trick him into texting. But today, since it was Father’s Day, I picked up the phone. No fancy FaceTime, no Snapchats, just a nice long talk between a Dad and his kid. I love him, and I’m proud of him, too.