This past weekend was Father’s Day. For me, it was the second year I celebrated my dad differently...because he is in heaven. Of course, Facebook helped prime the waterfall of tears as I viewed the slideshow of memories with my dad, but I also chuckled and laughed as I recalled the way he called me his ‘Sunshine’. We shared many special times and I’m grateful for the influence and impact he had in my life. My dad and I would watch National Geographic and Nova specials on TV. It’s true. My love of discovery especially of science and space came from him. You see, my dad Wayne was an aerospace engineer, a.k.a. “rocket scientist”!
He would get out his telescope in the evening and lift me to his waist to view the stars and planets. I remember peering into the eyepiece and gazing up into space. “Again, Daddy, again!” I’d plead as I asked for one more glimpse of the celestial beauty so close and yet so far away. I enjoyed looking at the planets and stars ‘sparkle’ and ‘twinkle’ in the darkness of our backyard. I especially liked viewing the craters that made giant shadows on the moon. I think I even told my kindergarten teacher that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.
One of my best childhood memories was being awakened by my dad early on the morning of July 20, 1969. I was four years old. Sitting transfixed in front of our black and white TV we watched the astronauts land on the moon for the first time. We heard the voice of Neil Armstrong’s profound words as they broadcast back to Earth: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” “Wow!” I heard my dad say, “The universe our God created is amazing,” as his eyes welled up with tears. I’m grateful I grew up with the kind of wonder that caused me to worship the Creator of the cosmos. Thinking back on it, Neil Armstrong left his footprints on the moon, but my dad's words left a deep spiritual impression upon my heart.
I have so many fantastic memories in life with my dad. Through the years my dad supported me and encouraged me to thrive in my God-given gifts and talents. He came to every dance and music recital and took photos even if it was in 100-degree heat. He took our family on amazing trips and vacations. Dad invited work collogues from Japan into our home and our family hosted Japanese exchange students. When Aerojet asked him to move to Japan, there was no hesitation because he already loved the culture and the people. I’ll never forget walking the streets of Tokyo with my dad for the first time. His eyes sparkled with excitement as we navigated our way to find a street vendor with a savory pancake called “Okonomiyaki”. (As I recall, I didn’t enjoy the taste very well the first time because pancake batter and vegetables were a new savory combination. But I never let on because it was the start of a great adventure.)
When my dad planned a father-daughter trip to northern Japan to visit pottery makers and enjoy the fall colors in 1983 it made special memories that I will treasure forever. What’s fantastic to recall is that no one spoke English in that region and there were NO English road signs! Somehow, with Dad’s navigational expertise, we made it to all our destinations which included authentic Japanese lodging. What a great trip.
While living in Japan, I had the privilege of teaching English to Japanese and international students. One afternoon as I was tutoring a brother and sister from Israel in their home, we suddenly heard the front door open. Their father had come home from a long business trip. “Abba, Abba, Abba,” they joyfully cried as they raced down the stairs and bounded into his arms. The sight and sound of pure love of that moment has never left me. You see, we are children of our heavenly Father. He knows us. We are His kids. We belong to Him. He loves us faithfully. Unconditionally. We don’t have to stay at arms' distance. We can come close and even run into His arms. He is our Abba, Father.