I suppose it's appropriate that my earliest memories of my father are from road trips. As a family we spent a lot of time in the van. Summer vacations almost always involved some kind of cross-country journey--all eleven of us crammed in with pillows and blankets, the luggage strapped on top. It should have been chaotic, but I felt completely secure. Dad was at the wheel. Things were under control. I'd fall asleep to the hum of the highway and wake up at our destination.
The days of family vacations in the big blue van have passed. Now Dad makes road trips of a different kind. Instead of traveling with us, he travels for us. He's crossed the continent on my behalf many times. (It’s no wonder that he knows every Flying J station in the country. (It’s true! Quiz him!)) When I graduated from college, Dad flew out to Provo to help me pack up and drive to Pennsylvania. He crossed the country for me again a few years later when I went to the temple for the first time. And again when I had Sam and needed experienced parents around to tell me what to do with him. Several months later, when I was suffering from post-partum depression he got in a car and brought my sweet sister, Teresa the Bookie*, to save me. On these occasions when I thank him for his trouble, he unfailingly replies "You're worth it."
And that's the thing that gets me--not just that I'm worth it--but to him we're all worth it. And he makes sure we know it. Take all the trouble and expense and road tripping he's gone to for my benefit and multiply that by nine. And then raise that to the power of 19 grandkids (plus 3 on the way). Factor in moves and babies and graduations and illnesses and weddings and holidays. He’s been there for all of us.
In that light, other early memories come into focus: A priesthood blessing after a scary fall, an educational session on the way to school, a dripping ice cream cone saved just in time. Glimpses of the best things in life—the things Dad goes great distances to share.
And so Dad, on your birthday, as you pack your car for yet another road trip, I want you to know how much I appreciate you going that distance. Again and again. I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday.