When I was in fourth grade my class spent a month learning about lighthouses. I became totally fascinated by lighthouses — enthralled by their role as beacons, warning of treacherous waters, and as coastal chaperones, guiding sailors into safe harbors.
My dad always took an interest in my interests, doing everything he could to cultivate and nurture my passions. He took me to nearly every lighthouse within 100 miles. Together we admiringly circled each statuesque lamp, gazing upward, imagining how it illuminated obsidian night skies.
My interest in lighthouses dwindled when my fourth grade class moved on to California Missions; my dad, however, didn’t immediately catch on.
One of my dad’s standard Christmas gifts every year was a calendar for each of us kids, which he’d buy at a kiosk in the the mall by the T.V. station (I know this because it was tradition for us to go holiday shopping together, and he’d always head straight for the calendar kiosk, telling me to look away, as if what he was doing was any secret. Still, I played along.). For Graham, he’d usually choose an Elvis Presley calendar, for Britta a horse calendar, and for me…a lighthouse calendar.
I received a lighthouse calendar that year when I’d been so fascinated by them…and also the next year…..and the next…………..and the next. This continued for 5 or 6 Christmases until I finally got the nerve to tell my dad that my interest in lighthouses was, for the most part, isolated to one month in 1998. We both belly-laughed.
The following year for Christmas I received a lighthouse calendar. As I unwrapped it disappointedly, I looked up to scold him for not remembering the conversation we’d had one year earlier…only to see him giggling like a merry prankster, so impressed with his lighthouse calendar joke. And, even though I was a teenager who was not amused by anything, I laughed too.
I received a lighthouse calendar nearly every year after that. And though my amusement eventually wore off, my dad’s chuckles never lost an iota of enthusiasm as he watched me open a lighthouse calendar on Christmas Day for 10+ years.
It was only recently, when I stumbled on a lighthouse calendar in the grocery store, that I started thinking about lighthouses again. I thought about their resolute elegance, their significance, and their near-extinction with the invention of GPS. I missed them. I missed him. I gazed nostalgically in realization that my dad was my lighthouse.
My dad was my beacon, illuminating my course, guiding me and encouraging me to keep moving no matter how unnerving and murky the night was, no matter how treacherous my course. When my dad became ill, I was heartsick with the thought of navigating the seas alone, without my lighthouse. I knew I could live without him, but I didn’t want to. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my choice to make.
So, there I stood in the grocery store aisle, staring, contemplating, thinking that, like lighthouses, calendars had all but become extinct in the age of technology. Like most people, I never use an actual, physical calendar anymore, and I didn’t need this lighthouse calendar. Even though I knew I could live without it, I didn’t want to. This time, it was my choice.