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Making Footprints This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I threw open the heavy station wagon door and hopped out of my booster seat. It was the most exciting time I could remember of my four-year-old life. Not only was it my day to bring in the snack for my class, but I got to bring in my dad, too! I knew everyone was going to love him. Unlike other parents who sat off to the side, my dad pulled up one of the tiny chairs and began to fingerpaint too. Soon all the kids gathered around my table while Dad showed us how to make little footprints in our blue “snow" pictures. I looked around at all my friends having a great time and smiled proudly. I definitely had the best dad in the world.
Standing 5'10“ with tan skin and a slightly graying beard down to his chest, he was the definition of a Vermonter. He wore wire-rimmed glasses with clear lenses in the day and yellow lenses for night driving. He didn’t need them, but he thought they made him look smarter. I never saw him without his beard, and sometimes he would have Mom make two braids on either side of his beard like a character from one of our favorite movies, “Willow," for a laugh. He wore flannel shirts and wool pants in winter and T-shirts with farming or Vermont slogans in the summer. Mostly he sported jeans, but when he did wear shorts, it was always with work boots.
Just like the day at my preschool, he knew how to entertain people; he made friends in a heartbeat. Once at the grocery store he talked to a woman about her baby for a good 10 minutes. After she left I asked, “Who was that?"
“I have no idea," he answered. He talked to everyone as if he’d always known them and made them feel important. There were few he didn’t like. He had a contagious smile and a love for life everyone admired.
He was a protective and loving father, although he was mischievous as a teenager. He would run up the down escalator and down the up escalator, cross the street when it said “Don’t Walk" and buy broken-down cars just to see if he could fix them. He always had a trick up his sleeve or a get-rich-quick idea, like the old railroad station he bought. He didn’t often follow through with these ideas, but they were always fun while they lasted.
When my brother was at school and Mom was at work, I got to stay with my dad. Those were the best times. He would work on cars while I pretended to work on my tricycle or we would visit our friends or family, one of my favorite things to do. On our car rides he would make up games and tell stories that I sometimes grew up believing.
Driving to my grandmother’s, I pointed to a “Watch for Falling Rock" sign and asked what it meant. Since the truth was too boring, he spent the rest of the trip telling me about a Native American named Falling Rock who was mad at his parents and pretended to run away. When he tried to find his way home, he got lost and never returned, so his family put up the “Watch for Falling Rock" signs, hoping someone would find him and bring him home. I spent the next few years imagining an Indian rolling down the cliff and jumping in the middle of the road every time we passed one of those signs.
The week before Christmas when I was six, Dad departed for other dimensions and discoveries. His death had an incredible impact on me that made me grow up fast. As I got older, my memories of him began to slip away and he felt more and more like a stranger than the wonderful father I had once known. My early adolescence brought about a search for information to help me get to know someone I would never again meet. I found myself angry that others had more stories and memories of him than his own daughter. I didn’t realize how many lives he had touched besides mine until I stumbled on the guestbook from his funeral and counted 800 names.
Thinking back to all the stories and lessons he taught me in the six years we were together, there is one that is particularly vivid. In his late teens, he and a friend went to explore some caves. My father went in first, with his friend behind him. They ended up in a very tight space, so small they had to crawl on their stomachs. When my dad decided it was time to turn back, his friend announced that he was stuck. They were trapped in the cave, and Dad told me that while he lay there thinking he wasn’t going to get out, he decided that if he did, he would live his life to its fullest. That was the most important idea he shared in our time together. I continue to live by those words and enjoy every day, because I’ve realized I never know which will be my last.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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