When I was a little girl I would walk behind my dad, watching him, mimicking his stride. He’s well over six feet tall, so my little-girl legs would be stretching out trying to look like he did. My dad’s walk is great. He takes big, long strides, and he kinda bounces on the balls of his feet. It’s almost a double bounce, if I’m being honest. He looks like he’s just really happy to be out and about, to be doing whatever he’s doing. And he takes up all the room he wants. There’s no clipped stride for my dad. There’s no hurried shuffle, or efficient gait. He walks with a purpose, he knows what direction he’s heading in, but, I don’t know, his walk has a self-congratulatory happiness to it, too.
The way my dad walks is just a reflection of how he lives. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He’s a flute playing, house building, protesting, history studying badass. He’s built an almost-off-the-grid homestead in the middle of nowhere, and he has a fondness for buying cars, trucks, and motorcycles on Ebay. One time he bought some car from “DE” thinking it was Delaware – turns out it was Denmark . . . thankfully, the seller was awesome and didn’t hold him to the sale. My dad is also determined to have mostly zero drama in his life (minus the car business). He once told my brother and me, “I don’t have a will, but I wrote it down that if either of you fight over anything when I die, it all goes to charity.” And he was not kidding. He takes that shit real serious.
Both fun and not so fun, he is the king of adventures. Dad loves jazz, and passed that on to us kids. He took us tubing down the French Broad River in a raft race, and we went on an ill-fated, but much remembered, backpacking trip when we were little. We also did less fun things like learn how to put up roll roofing, and how to scrape paint off the outside of a house, and how to speak up for yourself in court. He taught me that there are very few decisions that are absolutely right or wrong, but that not making a decision was where you got in trouble. “Ariel, just don’t get paralyzed. Most things you can get out of.” Turns out that’s true, and really great advice. (I’d add “always have a plan b”)
I tell you all that to tell you this. I was walking to work the other day, minding my own, and I found myself walking like my dad. I was taking big, long strides. I was bouncing on the balls of my feet. And I had a completely self-congratulatory joy in my heart. And it started me thinking about how I got to grow up to be like him in a few ways. I don’t suffer fools very well, I laugh inappropriately and too loud at times, and I’m not all that afraid to just try things out and see if they work. It also got me thinking about how I want to keep growing to be more like him. I’d like to protest more. I’d like to have more adventures, and give more of my time to the people around me. People like my dad don’t come into your life every day. They’re one of a kind, and you should pay attention. You don’t learn the same things from folks who walk like they’re late to some meeting as you do from people like my dad. It’s good to have role models, I’m glad I’ve known this one for every breath I’ve taken.