We were running down the middle of the street, me with my soaking wet dress hiked up above my knees with one hand and my father, holding onto my dog, China’s leash, water splashing up his legs each time his foot hit the hot, wet asphalt. By the time we saw my husband, Ric, driving around the corner, we were too soaked to get into the car so we laughed and kept running with thunder banging overhead until we reached the house. Out of breath, with rivulets of rain dripping off my bangs onto and down my flushed face, I had just experienced a perfect moment with my eighty-three year-old father.
It all began as a leisurely after-dinner stroll through the streets of his Arizona neighborhood. As we began walking, he put out his hand, palm facing up to the sky and asked me if I had felt a raindrop. “No”, I had not and the skies didn’t look too ominous, so we continued on our way with the dog tracking bunnies as they ran across the grassy areas and into the bushes for cover.
We chatted about the goings-on of our lives; my siblings, his grandchildren, his health, both of our recent travels – life. My father is a thoughtful man, and while there is much that we don’t agree upon, we are able to have deep and meaningful conversations, occasionally, respectfully agreeing to disagree. Our relationship wasn’t always so…well, adult. Either he was going through an immature phase or I was. As is often the case, hardship, loss, grief and pain does wonders to ripen the spirit and knock sense and humble pie into the ego and we are closer today than ever.
A sudden and rough gust of wind blew across our faces, closely followed by a streak of lightning and a clash of thunder. “Next comes the rain” I heard my father utter under his breath as he picked up his pace. Within seconds I felt the raindrops on my face and soon we were running through a full-fledged deluge.
On one hand, I was concerned that my father may trip and hurt himself, on the other hand, I was totally impressed with his solid gate. It was that of a man who had logged years of mileage jogging the Newport Beach, California boardwalks and who now rides his bike daily. At one point, my Dad looked at me with a wet smile on his face and said, “Well, you won’t ever forget this walk with me” and he belted out a few lines from Singing in the Rain. Indeed, he was right, this was a memory in the making.
After I warmed myself under a hot shower and was wrapped in soft dry pajamas, I found my Dad sitting in his big leather chair in the living room. He looked at me with a smile and I raved, “That was the most awesome walk, Dad”. He laughed, admitting that he was feeling the very same sentiment. It’s those unexpected slivers of life when an indelible experience is etched in our hearts that we feel most alive.
The following drizzly evening as Ric and I walked our way through the streets of Santa Fe, dodging puddles under our big umbrellas as we went, I thought of my Dad and giggled.