There’s a blanket I use when I’m sitting on my couch in the evening, writing or watching a show. There is never a time I place it over my legs that I don’t think of my dad.
Today would have been his birthday.
I bought the blanket for him several years before he died. It was the first Christmas gift I bought that year. I found a special display of blankets in a store, and this one had three labs on it. I picked up one for my dad and one for a brother-in-law. They were inexpensive but proved to be very warm and durable through the years.
I would often walk into the living room and harass my dad for putting the blanket on wrong, putting the dogs on their heads instead of right-side-up. He later started doing it just to harass me. It still makes me smile to imagine his impish grin when he was up to something, which was more often than not.
It’s the same blanket we took to the hospital for his last few days on earth. We didn’t use it often, because he tended to stay warm under a couple light covers, but when we did, I made sure the pups were right-side-up.
At night, another blanket reminds me of my dad – and my mom. For my 50th birthday, she put together a quilt using many of the clothes I remember them having through the years (and some still make me laugh when I reflect on the styles). She had it quilted with a farm pattern, so even when it’s flipped on its back, the design reminds me of life on the farm. It’s warm and just the right weight to snuggle under at night.
It’s an odd thing to move through grief while finding purpose and contentment in life. The memories soothe me but not in a way that keeps me from moving forward and living well. My dad enjoyed life. Even when he met some significant challenges throughout life, he approached them with a sense of humor, common sense, and determination. He always encouraged me to do the same. He always encouraged me to live well, to explore the possibilities, and to see challenges as basic problems to be solved.
I don’t hide under the covers that remind me of him. I don’t live my life because of who he was. I don’t live my tomorrows because of my yesterdays. But he helped me see a balance of freedom and responsibility in life. He planted seeds of faith in me and fostered them in the way he lived. Even the way he died cultivated and grew my faith and affirmed the purpose of my life.
My dad wasn’t perfect. I don’t idolize him. But I appreciate him. I am thankful for the lessons of freedom and responsibility he taught me by example. And not a day goes by without several moments of gratitude for his encouragement to always grow, to fully live, to treat people well, and to choose joy.