I wrote this several years ago to be included in a special photo album we gave my dad on his 70th birthday. It has been reprinted in a couple of very small, not-famous publications. I'm putting it here for storage. :)
The summer I turned 17 years old, my mom, dad, and I went to France for five weeks. It was a business trip for my dad and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and ordinary 16-year-old from Toledo, Ohio. Near the end of our stay overseas, it became clear that Dad was going to have to stay longer in France, and my mom and I would need to return to the States so that I could enter my senior year of high school and so that Mom could return to her job as a sixth grade teacher.
Shortly after Mom and I arrived at home, I celebrated my seventeenth birthday. It was the first birthday that my dad had ever missed, but he still managed to send a gift, all the way from France. He was terribly lonely there by himself. That fact was evident by the care and time he took to prepare the wonderful little package of gifts he sent for my birthday. He had bought a gold bracelet at the street market. It was one I had admired while there. For my turtle collection, he had carved a little turtle using his pocket knife and a piece of wood he had scrounged from a broom handle. There were a few other little items also, and all these gifts were packaged together in a small lidded, wicker box--to add to my basket collection. Inside the lid of the box, Dad had fitted a picture of woman wearing a beautiful flowered dress and a large sun hat covered with yellow roses, my favorite flower. He had cut the picture from a postcard and taped it inside the lid of the hexagon-shaped box. As I unwrapped each little gift that he had carefully wrapped in white tissue paper, I was very aware that my dad knew me, that he knew what I liked, and that he loved me. It was a great birthday gift. But, it was not until a year later that I would fully realize what a great gift that little wicker box was.
On my eighteenth birthday, I was registering for my Freshman year of college at a school located 500 miles away from home. I was not given to homesickness, but being away from Mom and Dad on such an important birthday was another story! After standing in long lines and filling out dozens of forms, I returned to my dorm room. I was feeling a little sorry for myself because it was, after all, my birthday, and it wasn't feeling like a special day at all. When I opened the door to my dorm room, I found a huge mess. The book shelves that had been attached to the wall had fallen down, taking with them all the knick knacks and special things I had placed there just the day before.
Several things were broken, but most of the stuff survived. It certainly did not improve my mood to have to clean up the mess. As I got to the bottom of the pile, I found the little wicker box from my dad. The lid had come off, and its contents were scattered all around. As I picked up the lid, I realized that the picture that had been inside was not there. I shuffled around in the books and found it, and was just about to put it back in its place. As I did, I noticed my father's beautiful handwriting on the back. I had never had the picture out and did not know that there was a message there for me. It read: "Now, who told you you could peek back here, nosy? This card kinda reminds me of you. Sorry, I couldn't send you real roses. Love you, Dad....P.S. If you stay as sweet as you are, someday, someone will love you as much as I love your mom."
I smiled and cried and smiled some more. The gift that my dad had so lovingly put together and sent long-distance to me a year before was giving even more now, just when I needed a gift. I realized then as much as I do today that what he said in his "P.S." was truly the greatest gift he ever gave to me (and to my brother and sister). We always knew that Dad loved Mom. He showed it often in a variety of wonderful ways. Because of that, we grew up secure and confident that our family would always be whole.
I can honestly say that the greatest gift I ever got from my dad was one I received one year and realized the next. It was the gift he demonstrated all my life. He loves my mom, and he always will. By the way, "someone" does love me the way my dad predicted more than 20 years ago. And, my husband knows that if the house ever catches fire, he is to grab the kids first and then the little wicker box from my dad!