Once, late on a summer afternoon when she was just 3, Doug Alberts’ daughter Arielle looked up and saw the moon in the sky.
Her mother asked her how it got there. And the little girl knew the answer. “My daddy got it for me,” she said.
For Alberts, the moment gave special meaning to the concept of fatherhood. “It seemed so symbolic of the unquestioned confidence this young person had in me and how much I would truly like to give her the moon,” he said.
IN Life asked Spokane area dads to share recollections of instants that epitomized the essence of fatherhood. And responses ranged from joyful to bittersweet.
Robert Glatzer recalled something that happened in 1974.
“When my daughter Gaby was 3, she saw me light up a cigarette,” he wrote. “She said, ‘When I grow up, can I smoke like you?’
“I put out the cigarette and haven’t smoked since.”
Dan Frickle’s moment happened not long ago when his teenage son looked him in the eye and surprised him. “Dad, you know what?” the boy said. “You’re my best friend.”
When Michael Aleman’s daughter was 20 months old, a pediatrician scraped her gums so her teeth could emerge. Not surprisingly, that caused a fair amount of tears and crying.
Immediately after leaving the doctor’s office that day, the family went to a shoe store. “When the clerk appeared wearing a doctor-like green smock, she identified him with her recent pain,” wrote Aleman. “Frightened, she turned to me, and throwing her arms desperately around my neck cried, ‘Daddy.’ “
Don Barlow recalled holding his newborn daughter back in 1979. And he remembered having to cope when his wife died of cancer in 1987. But something that happened just a few weeks ago is also going to stick in his mind.
“I saw my 17-year-old daughter and her date just before she left for the senior prom,” he wrote. “Donell has grown into a tall, elegant and beautiful young lady in the image of her mother. I was again a proud and happy father.”
“Bedtime is the time when being a dad is most relevant,” wrote Bob Bourke. “Whether it is carrying a sleeping son or daughter to their own bed or rocking or reading or singing them to sleep, it is then that I feel closest to them.”
Les Bolter said nothing could top helping his wife deliver their youngest son at home. “Yes, it was planned that way,” he wrote. “There were no problems. And now he is a happy and loving 7-year-old.”
David Keister became a father when he was teenager. By his own reckoning, he made plenty of parenting mistakes while his sons were growing into young men.
Not long ago, at a time when his sons were struggling with relationship and legal problems, Keister realized that, in his dealings with the boys, he projected a sense of sorrow and disappointment. He vowed to change that.
Now he strives to show them that he believes in what they can become.
“When they see themselves through my eyes, they now see only positive things,” he wrote. “They see themselves as successful and positive achievers.”
Onnie Juntilla treasures a letter sent to him for Father’s Day in 1984. It was from an adult daughter. It included this sentence: “My hope is that I can be as good of a parent as mine have been to me.”
Geoff Eng remembers when he had to tell his sons, ages 11 and 14 at the time, that their mother had died. “That not just redefined my role as a dad but as a parent as well.”
Tim Williams alluded to watching his son wobble down the alley on a first bike solo, attending his daughter’s ballet performances and several other such memories. “But the epitome of fatherhood for me is seeing that part of myself and my wife blended into vibrant human lives,” he wrote.
For parents, the bond with children can be shaped by themes of redemption and loss, by pride and rivalry.
But when dads talk about the moments that defined fatherhood, it’s pretty clear. They’re sharing love stories.
Jim McLeod’s recalled a day in the summer of 1973 when he saved his young son from drowning in Lake Coeur d’Alene. “The memory of his near death will never leave me,” he wrote.
(The boy now holds an advanced diving certificate and is majoring in marine biology at Oregon State University.)
After his son had moved to Alaska with his mother, McLeod wrote a poem inspired in part by rescue at the lake. It was included in a collection published by Washington State University Press. It’s called “Drowning with Brock,” and it ends this way:
Now, years later,
I wake, in mid-dream,
shaking at my own surface,
how long distant Alaska is,
when we speak
our reaching’s obscured
as time’s stopped mouth,
and how, in the dark,
I still hear you call me
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Staff illustration by Molly Quinn