another more

I thought it was about time to add another story I wrote for my "Growing Up Carroll" book at Christmas. This one is about my Dad:

It is funny to me that people use the word “capture” when speaking about pictures. Oh he really captured her personality in this one. I have a picture on my desk of my dad, my older sister Kali, and me, and quite honestly it upsets me because it has captured hardly anything. I try to not look at it too directly. If I look too long I remember that it was taken when I didn’t know the quadratic formula or that such a thing could happen in Rwanda—when my sister was tangibly so much closer in age and my dad was not yet a deacon.
When looking you can clearly see that we all have on hunter orange, which doesn’t “capture” much. I don’t know if he had gotten a turkey that day, or a deer, or even what season it was. Dad is holding a muzzleloader, so there is a good chance it was deer season, but I just can’t remember. Maybe Kali had gotten to go with him this day, or better yet, maybe I had been chosen.
Being the chosen one meant a ride in dad’s “stinky old pickup,” a thermos of tea or hot chocolate and sometimes a dozen of my mom’s freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. It meant sitting in the woods, as silent as possible and speaking dad’s language.
I spoke his language at other times, wrestling in the living room after evening meals, or reading him my library books. I mostly just made up the story based on the pictures in my books, even though I could read the words perfectly, but he didn’t care. I also spoke his language at t-ball games and during late night prayers or after a bad dream. I had a weird habit during the night—I would only call for my dad if I needed something. He would get out of bed and come across the hall to my room. Typically it was nothing to cause alarm, but occasionally he had to rescue me from thirst, or the shadow on the wall, or from restlessness. Sometimes I would only say, “Dad, can you go get Mom for me?” On special nights he would read to me from the Journals of Lewis and Clark, stopping every few paragraphs to explain or expand on the writing. When I got older he would leave me notes on my bathroom mirror after basketball games. One time I was selected to the KAAN all-star team, a local radio station’s top picks in the listening area. He left me a note that read, “Way to go Kels—Mom and I get a dinner out of this one!” And at the banquet he just looked so proud to be my dad.
But on the days in the woods with the world around us and a part of us, I would say so little and I would catch glimpses of my dad. There were times I would see him as a little child himself, splashing through puddles to get to our location. At other times I would see him as a learned scholar, showing me how to track animals or create my own shelter. He heard every branch move, every leaf rustle. These fall days burn in my mind and even if I look at the picture on my desk I can’t smell the presence of these moments on my dad’s neck.
When you process film you freeze images, people, in a moment, but that is not how life is. It is more fluid than that. We are more fluid than that. My dad is not captured in this picture because you can’t see the dirt under his fingernails from landscaping. You can’t see the paintings he has created and even though you can see his wedding ring, you don’t know that he never removed it from his finger for nearly 20 years. You can’t see him come up behind my mom and give her a hug while she is cooking supper in the kitchen. Even though you can see that Kali and I are crowded in, arms slung confidently around his shoulders, you do not know how much we miss the warmth and smells of this moment.
And for everything the picture is missing, I can still see God in the details of his face—in the lines creasing his brow when he smiles and in his stark blue eyes. I see God in the details of his marriage and his home. God has been pushing and breaking and bending and changing him, and now I look at him in that picture on my desk, and I see God in the details of my dad.

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