My Two Dads

Every little girl needs a good daddy, and I’ve been especially lucky, because I have two. I’ve been thinking about both of them a lot this Father’s Day, and trying to narrow down my remembrances, because I could bore you for hours with stories about the special soap Dad had to use to scrub his hands after work, or Grampa’s gleeful chorus of “You’re playing the WRONG note!” whenever I practiced piano, but to really understand the impact these two men have had on me, you only need to know two things: the constancy of the newspapers, and the trick to singing alto, because they tell the same tale of two fathers’ gentle, unspoken guidance.

The alto part seemed lacking in church today, so I filled in for a bit. I normally sing soprano, but once upon a time, a wonderful man taught me, in the most lasting way, how to sing alto.

You see, when I was a teenager, I wanted to learn to read the alto part, but sometimes I would struggle to pick it out, especially in Sacrament meeting. Hearing my attempts, my Grandfather would switch over and sing the alto line in his octave to help me out. Then, when I was on track, he’d go back to tenor or bass or whatever he was singing that day. If he noticed me faltering, he would emphasize my note in his own part, and give the tiniest nod of his head when I got it right.

We never spoke about it; he never even made eye contact with me while he was doing it, but I always felt loved and supported, and even today, when I sing alto, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my wonderful grandfather, who saw my need and stepped in to guide me gently and without any hesitation. I miss him. I love you more than a hog loves slop, Grampa. 

(I’m the baldish one)

Then there’s my dad– a hardworking, no-frills kind of guy. He wasn’t always around when I was young, and our relationship has not always been smooth, but he was there for me in the best way on the hardest day of my life, and his presence made more of a difference than I think I will ever be able to express.

On February 26, 2004, I came home from class and got a phone call from my mom. Not even a minute after she called, my dad, who lived a couple of hours away from USU, knocked at the door. I laughed at the coincidence, until my mother told me the reason why he was there: my grandfather, the alto tutor, had died earlier that day. I turned my head and wept into my dad’s shoulder, feeling as though the grief would tear me apart. And he held me as I talked to my mom, and waited patiently while I packed a bag to go home. It took awhile, and we were driving in the wee small hours of the morning.

We didn’t talk much on the drive down to Salt Lake; I was in shock, and I don’t think he quite knew what to say. I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going, until we stopped in downtown Salt Lake in front of the Tribune building. The surprise must have registered on my face, because my dad just said, “Come look,” and led me to the plate-glass window in the front of the building, where we could watch the next day’s edition being printed and assembled.

I was a journalism major at the time, so this was right up my alley, and I was fascinated. It was pretty impressive to be able to watch the construction of a newspaper from beginning to end. But the real blessing came from watching the cogs and belts of these huge machines spit out news sheet after news sheet. My entire world had just imploded, but that didn’t stop the presses. The machines kept clicking and clacking, not missing a beat, in a rhythm that seemed to pay tribute to the steady, constant nature of the huge heart the world had lost that day.

Hypnotized in those moments, I forgot my grief. I forgot everything, actually. I don’t remember the rest of the trip home to Ohio. I don’t remember anything until the day of the funeral. My dad, without saying more than a few words, gave me peace. He distracted me, yes, but more importantly, he showed me how steadily the world turns, even in the face of great loss. He knew just how to remind me that the stars would still shine and the news would still print, and that lesson has never left me. I can still smell the warm ink, hear the cogs turning, and see the printed sheets stacking up. I can still feel the bite of the air on my face, the smoothness of the glass under my hands, and the unconditional love of both my fathers. Thanks, Dad.

(Dad– or, since I know how that household works, Natalie– you need to send me copies of some old pictures. I have none.)

I hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day, dear reader, and that the next time you hear an alto or read a newspaper, you’ll smile and think of your own dad. I know I will.


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