Although the calendar still declares another week of winter, our weather has long since transitioned into something more resembling late spring. I removed the decorative sled from the front porch weeks ago. As winter fades, I take out and revisit one of my favorite, least faded, memories of my father.
In my parents’ home, “Because I said so,” was the primary response and the final authority to our pleadings to do something, go somewhere, get something, or get out of something. There was rarely a rebuttal to it (how times have changed!) I seldom disobeyed my mother, and dared not cross my father. But one time, in all my years under his roof, I did question my father’s authority. And I’m truly grateful for that indiscretion.
I was 17, and it was the year of the blizzard. Snow blanketed our town. Everybody who was anybody was going sledding, and naturally the happenin’ hill was across town. It might as well have been Timbuktu. But I was planning on going and making preparations by rushing around gathering warm articles of clothing – mittens, scarf, long underwear, and wool socks. I remember enthusiastically telling my parents about it as I descended the basement stairs in leaps of excitement. In the background, I recall hearing something about me not going. I had to go sled riding that night like I had never had to do anything ever before in my life!
This may have been the first time in my life I would not assume the role of peacemaker and be the compliant child. I dug my heels in and repeatedly screamed as loud as I could, “Why not? That’s not fair!” I recall there being moments of screaming back and forth, tears flowing, tempers flaring. I was standing over the utility sink, bracing my hands for one final plea screeched at the top of my lungs. “Why can’t I go?” My father, standing upstairs at the top of the basement stairs, began, as he often did, “Because –” — and then the phrase ended differently. “Because I love you,” he said.
I was stunned into stillness. I still yearned to go sledding but a new joy arose inside me, asserting a position of prominence. I can and do revisit this memory, and am always bathed in its warmth. You see, my Dad, who lived to be 81, spoke those three little words to me only once. I guess sometimes, once is enough.