Our theme for the month of June is “older and wiser.” Writers were asked to write a response to one of their previous pieces. Today, Philip responds to their October 2021 post, “Things Would Have Been Different.”

My dad has this opening phrase he uses sometimes while praying before a meal, and it goes something like: “God, from your hand comes every good gift.” I noticed it a couple of years ago when I was living with my parents, because it had sort of dawned on me, as an adult, that my dad is an absolute role model of gratitude. Making this connection, I realized that he had probably been saying this prayer for years before, and so it became immediately tied to him in my mind.

In addition to being an amazing person and father in a thousand other ways, my dad is a cheerful, energetic guy, and a blast to be around. He is a jokester and a fun-haver and a vivacious conversationalist, but it took me most of my life to put together that this is not just a lovable quirk of his personality. It’s actually an unambiguous sign of one of his most intrinsic virtues. This man loves to be alive. He is so grateful to be living on this earth, spending time with the people he loves, doing the things he loves, and it’s pretty obvious that this is the case if you spend time with him. He lives out and expresses his gratitude with an authentic, embodied joy that has inspired me since long before I could articulate it.

Almost five years ago now, when my spouse’s dad unexpectedly passed away, it affected her in a way I can’t possibly imagine or describe, even being by her side the whole time and since. I watched her entire family face a tidal wave of sudden pain and grief that was exactly as powerful and potent as their love for their father had been. It was intense and harrowing and deeply, deeply unfair.

But in bearing witness to this pain, I was also affected in a different way—unexpected at the time, but in retrospect totally predictable: it changed how I think about my own dad. Not that it changed what I think of him, really; I’d like to think I was already appreciating him. But it’s definitely different now. It’s more… fragile, I suppose, but in a sort of beautiful way. I’m acutely aware of every moment I spend with him: every laugh we share together, every meal, every hug, every shared task or passing conversation—and I know not to take it for granted.

In some way, that might sound exhausting, like I’m afraid I’m going to lose him at any moment. But it’s really the opposite. I’m channeling the lived gratitude that he himself exemplifies about life, but about simply having him around. There’s a lot of things in my life to be grateful for, and my dad is pretty high up on that list. But I like to think I can channel that gratitude enough to honor both dads, too.

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