Have you ever noticed how a smell can bring back so many memories? Whether it’s the smell of fresh baked bread or Play-Doh or the smell of nice crispy bacon (which reminds me of all-you-can eat breakfast buffets with my grandfather), it seems that odors trigger things that I’ve virtually forgotten. Personally, I love the smell of chalk dust because it stirs up some of my earliest memories. When I was very young my dad was in graduate school studying physics (Science rules!!!) and I remember playing in the classrooms at the University of Utah.
I always thought it was such an amazing thing to go and hang out where my dad was. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I was able to attend my 7-year old daughter Natalia’s publishing party at school. All the kids wrote and illustrated books and then read them to the gathered parents. Most of the stories were about exciting trips to amusement parks or vacations in St. Croix.
Then it was Natalia’s turn. Her book was about a time I took her to work with me. It wasn’t a terribly exciting trip, it was on a Saturday and I needed to stop by my office at the college and pick up a few games for an upcoming game convention. I asked if anyone wanted to go with me and Natalia did, so we went. The whole outing took less than an hour and I really didn’t think anything of it. But Natalia remembered and wrote about every detail, including the people we talked to and the toys… I mean important articles of scientific research… that we played with.
One of those toys in my office is a Crookes radiometer. My dad and I had one when I was a kid and I always thought it was so amazing. I still remember him taking the time to explain to me how it worked. The device is simple – you shine a light on the radiometer and the vanes inside start to spin on the spindle, but the physics are complicated. I think of it like this: millions and millions of tiny drops of sunshine hit the vanes and warm up one side more than the other. The air molecules interact with this warmer side and push off, causing the vanes to spin.
Fatherhood is the same way. Being a great dad isn’t the result of one or two huge acts, it’s the combined impact of countless tiny and seemingly insignificant acts – like a million drops of sunshine. My dad is a great dad. He has never pulled me out of a burning building, donated his last kidney to me, or saved me from a pack of bloodthirsty zombie hyenas – although I don’t doubt for a minute that he wouldn’t do all of those things if needed. Instead he took me to work with him, spent every Christmas morning putting together insanely complex GI Joe vehicles, cooked the trout I caught while camping and convinced me it was still okay to eat it even if it fell in the fire, and explaining to a young and overenthusiastic boy about the wonders of the Crookes radiometer.
All that being said, it’s kind of ironic that we only take one day out of the year to celebrate Father’s Day even though the job description involves a 24/7 work week from the moment your child is born. So to my dad and all the dads out there, thank you for all the little things you do. Happy Father’s Day – today, tomorrow and always.