I am a father of daughters. I have attempted, in my broken and fairly unorganized way, to raise them in such a way that they learn to stretch their wings and explore, to believe in God and the plan He has for them through the talents they've been given, that they learn to feel confident in using their talents and trying new things, and that they learn that their talents and gifts are not only for themselves alone, but for the good of others as well. Through them and their talents, they express the love of God to a world desperately in need of it.
A tall order to be sure, and one which I'm never quite sure I'm fulfilling well. There are times I see hints of it, but a great deal of time as well where it feels as if one is tilting at windmills. Do such things really have impacts on their lives of our daughters?
Enter the Christmas present. Enter Buttercup.
I get to cheat in a way that you, gentle readers, do not: I get to see her daily posts on Facebook. I have watched over the last few years as she undertook a dream which she had put aside - to get a college degree in teaching - which has morphed into her life's calling helping autistic children.
And here's the cool part: she speaks constantly in her writing of her father.
He passed on in July 2010 and so has never (physically) seen all that Buttercup has done in this time. But that hardly means he is not present in her mind: nay, her writings and thoughts drip of him with so many entries; even this year at Christmas, she speaks with high praise of a gift she received, a quilt made of his shirts, a physical reminder of his presence.
I say that his influence continues because she says that his influence continues in her life to this day: in her gardening, in her service to others, in her faith. She keeps on her desk a wooden apple, a constant reminder of him.
And a great comfort it has been to me as I work through what so often seems to be the wreckage of my life, hoping in some way or shape to inculcate what I would wish that my children would know and internalize long after I'm gone, to see that in at least one case that I know of and can attest to, such a thing actually can happen: we can do what we hope to do.
And that hope, that example, is the greatest gift I received at the end of one long year and the beginning of the next: lessons can be learned and lives influenced (and others therefore changed) by the example and lessons of a father.