"Did you know I can pick you up by your ears!? Just hold on to my arms and I'll show you!"
I bent down to perform this superhuman feat for my friends' young daughter, and she clasped on to my wrists. In a moment that felt completely outside of myself, it hit me. I didn't know what to do with it at the time, so I just continued on being "Silly Mr. Shane" as I hoisted her up into the air, then did the same with her younger brother. They continued to take turns and then I became a jungle gym. Up they went into the air, down they hung like monkeys. I suggested their hair would make a great mop, and maybe the bathroom floor needed cleaning...
After traveling down to Houston for a close friend's wedding, I made the short hop to visit another. He and his wife saved me from making a long New Year's Eve drive back to DFW, and gave me a much needed bed to sleep in. The following morning, I was treated to fun time with them both and the three lovely children that make up their family. I found myself making silly jokes, playing tricks, and spinning around like a dog chasing its tale for the sake of innocent laughter and a smile. Before long I had to hit the road to get back home, but found myself genuinely happy with the fun I'd had that morning.
Last night as I lay in bed processing the events of the day, I allowed myself to return to that moment that caught me off guard earlier. It was so sudden. The moment she clasped my wrists, I was transported back to one of the many times I locked eyes with my dad, grabbed his arms as he grabbed my ears, and then lifted away from the ground. Somehow in that moment, I became him and was able to enjoy the first happy memory I've been able to remember in a long time, being both in the present, the product of his parenting, and in the past, a son with his father again.
I thought back to the rest of the time I spent with their kids that morning-- the jokes, the silly behavior, the playful roughhousing-- that was all my dad. He was always amazing with little kids. A perennial goofball. No joke was too silly, no trick went unplayed, and there was always a good reason to wrestle or climb on his big frame.
Last night I was able to look back at the day with pride. I felt so akin to my dad, that I could almost hear his laughter and feel a pat on the back. Without any real intention, I had done as he would do. I carry with me many more of his lessons and personality than I had realized, and that's just fine with me.