I often wonder what my dad would think about my life. About my parenting. About the choices I’ve made or the kids I’ve fostered. I wonder what kind of encouragement he would offer when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed from sitting with someone else’s trauma. I wonder how he would help me celebrate the everyday victories—how he’d cheer me on when I bragged about a perfect spelling test or a kiddo who finally learned how to tie their shoes.
I wonder what it would be like to call him and talk about the profound beauty of helping guide someone else toward a deeper understanding of who they are and why they matter.
I can’t know, of course.
I can’t know what he would say or how he would react. But on the days I wonder if it’s worth it—on the days I feel like the brevity of foster care somehow nullifies the impact, my dad offers me hope.
Because I still remember. I remember the inflection in his voice when he used his unique version of my nickname. I remember the sensation of sitting next to him on the couch and putting my head on his shoulder while he read to me before school. I remember how it felt when he picked me up and set me on top of the apple grader, calmly talking to me even as he frantically tore the machine apart in order to free my arm.
I remember a specific night when he was tucking me into bed. Despite all my blankets, I was still cold. He dug through the layers until he found my hand. He pulled it out and held it close to my mouth.
“Breathe on it,” he said.
“Was it hot?” he asked.
I confirmed that it was.
“Wanna know a trick to warm up?”
He laid down next to me and pulled the covers over our heads. “It’s easy,” he said. “Just keep breathing.”
I laughed, but he was serious. So, I focused on the rhythm of my inhaling and exhaling as he explained how the blankets were trapping the same heat I’d felt on my hand. He told me they were saving it for me.
A few minutes later he gave me one last hug before sliding out of my bed. My dad’s technical explanation of why my breath was warm and how the blankets trapped the heat was mostly lost on me then. But that moment—cuddled next to him—is one I’ve thought of hundreds of times. From a rocky riverbed in Denali National Park to a chilly hostel in Peru—every time I pull a blanket over my head to warm up, I remember.
Some moments are like that. They have the ability to integrate into our lives and wrap us in the profound impact of others—to make them feel close, even if the moment itself is years removed or a lifetime away.
It’s comforting to think my dad’s life left such an impression on me—one that is continuously pushing into who I am and who I want to become. And I think that’s why I fight so hard for the people I choose to love. It’s why I try to be intentional about making sure the kids who walk through my door feel valued and known. I didn’t have my dad for very long, but the moments we had mattered. They were enough to show me how deeply I’m loved.