And I'd always insist, "No, Dad! It's not too big!" Then he'd hold me up so the wave would hit me at chest level and I'd shriek in delight. Again and again, "Is this one too big?" But nothing was too big as long as my dad was right there.
A few years later--I think I was eight or nine--we were hiking together. I don't know where we were. I remember a lot of trees and the visible rock was gray, not red, so it couldn't have been near where we lived on the Arizona Strip. My father is a fairly quiet man, doesn't typically talk unless he has something pretty important to say. So hikes with Dad were usually extended silences, punctuated with profundities.
On this particular hike, I remember him saying to me, "Right now is what's happening right now. It's not the future; it's not the past; it's now. And that's where we are."
That's present moment awareness, which Mormonism doesn't especially emphasize, but my dad was thinking about it, and talking to his eight-year-old daughter about it. Lots of good memories of hikes with Dad, especially the ones where good theological discussions developed.
Dad was more sympathetic and understanding than my mother about the depression I struggled with as a teenager, because he struggled with it too. I remember one day in particular during my junior year of high school, when the thought of going to school was just overwhelming. My mother wasn't home that morning. "Can I take a day off?" I asked Dad.
"You know better than I do whether you can or not. Do you have any tests or anything?"
I didn't, so I had permission to skip school that day. Dad invited me to come along with him on his route as a rural mail carrier. I did, packed up some homework to do along the way. "You still the smartest in your class?" he asked as I finished up a trigonometry assignment. Smart. Of all my insecurities, I never doubted that I was smart, because my dad had always said that I was, for as long as I could remember.
There were several times when I rode along with Dad while he delivered the mail, but this day stands out in particular for the discussion that developed. Ironically, I can't remember the specifics of what we talked about. I know the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac was in there, along with the Chronicles of Narnia. Mostly I remember the feeling, the connection with my dad that this was something important that we had in common.
My dad and I don't see eye to eye on much these days, religion and politics in particular. The theological discussions stopped long ago, but they are still some of my best memories. Hearing Dad speak at my grandmother's funeral last fall helped me realize--or perhaps just reminded me, actually--that my dad is a very spiritual person in his own way. It's drastically different from my way. I believe it's based on several inaccuracies. And yet it does still seem to work for many people as a means of evoking the sacred.
And I can respect that.