Update: On January 20, 2013, I said goodbye to my father and he quietly slipped away. The gates are even more precious now.
Every Spring, my parents travel from Oregon to Texas for a visit. This has become such a tradition for our family – we block the calendars a year in advance to protect those dates. When they finally arrive, we celebrate the victories, tell wonderful stories and laugh long into the night. Every year their visit leaves something behind. Something beyond precious.
This year, my father repaired our gates.
We worked for hours he and I – much of the time in contented silence. To be there – working together was enough. There are moments I captured in my mind – like snapshots. I will never forget them. Watching him work with his baseball cap tilted off to one side, thinking how he has always been able to build anything and fix everything. Seeing his once young hands, older now. Knowing that it causes him pain to stand for a long time on knees that are weary. Drinking strong coffee and wanting to hold onto the moment forever.
Gates are a mighty metaphor, representing what we let in and what we keep out of our lives. Gates protect what we care about. They are the boundaries we set and the invitations we make. As we worked, I thought about the “virtual” gates in my life. I wondered about the condition of those. What am I allowing? What am I blocking? What have I locked out, and what have I locked in?
Winter has come. Each time I swing those gates open, I see my father’s face. And each time I close them I am grateful again. As a child, he was a larger-than-life-hero. Some things don’t change, even when you are all grown up with gates of your own.