I believe in my daddy’s smile. He has one of those Buddha smiles that show the world a row of big solid square teeth and eyes that squint down to supreme ecstasy. When my daddy smiles, he is a shining beacon, that reminds me why I am treading water back here in my hometown, after a lifetime overseas. My dad is now 90 years old, and he called me every Sunday night with out fail for 20 years to ask how it was going, never mind the fact that he had to get up around midnight to do this, due to the time difference and my work schedule. I could hear his smile half way around the world! Sometimes we would even speculate on how amazing it was that our voices were shot out into space at some floating satellite, and then beamed back to earth again so quick that there was barely any delay in speech. That would make him smile, but what would really radiate his beatific joy was talking about my girls. His miracle babies he called them, as they both came into the world 14 weeks before their time and overcame incredible health challenges to survive and prosper and now, at 18, to have attitude.
One Sunday eve 3 years ago, when my daddy called me on a hot Australian summer’s night when the glow of wildfires lit up the horizon and ash coated the grass and a smell of sulfur and smoke permeated everything, I suddenly knew it was time to go home. He was preparing for his 88th birthday on August 8th and was hoping that we could be there for the celebration. I said we wouldn’t miss it for anything and the sheer joy that hit the satellite and radiated through my hand piece illuminated my heart. We had to go back not only for his birthday party, but to stay, and be with him, and help stoke the boiler of his joy.
When my daughters and I helped him into his WWII Naval Commander’s uniform for his plaque dedication ceremony on Mt. Soledad last April, it still fit…well sort of. Yeah we had to let out the pants 6” at the waist, and transform the brass buttoned double breasted coat into a smart single breasted look, but his smile beamed out stronger than ever, as if a sculptor had labored for the most part of a century to mold the lines of his face into a Hellenistic mask of mirth.
Why is he so happy? Sometimes I ponder this question as I sit at my desk trying to balance uncooperative numbers, or as I run the gauntlet of thankless errands, or as I try to make safe choices in a life littered with land mines. That picture of him holding up a string of fresh caught rainbow trout with the lake and mountains in the background comes to mind. His smile is huge. He is happy because he is. And that makes me smile!
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