The school my daughters attend has a beautiful graduation tradition. Teachers stand at the lectern, one at a time, and read a poem to each graduate. The poem begins and ends with the graduate’s name, and contains snippets and memories that encapsulate the experience the faculty have had of that student through his or her years attending the school. This artistic acknowledgement is a vehicle for teachers to share with the community the growth and uniqueness of each graduate. The students listen and soak in the experience of being seen and celebrated.

Holidays and birthdays are often when we think most about creating gifts that acknowledge and celebrate loved ones. A few words delivered from the heart, though, can make a powerful impression any day of the year. In my recent article, Y Smile, I talked about what this can feel and look like when we deliver a spoken acknowledgment to someone. Today’s post, in honor of Father’s Day, is an acknowledgement in the form the teachers at my daughters’ school use at graduation. If you choose to write one of these for someone special in your life, consider reading it out loud to them when you present it. The cadence, tone, and emotion in your voice will be an additional gift to the one who receives your acknowledgement.

Dad.
One long step for every three of my tiny ones.
I stood on a chair to see what our kitchen looked like from your 6’2″ perspective.
Racing me around the perimeter of the house, assuring me that, yes, you ran your fastest when I won.
Hundreds of games of checkers, never letting me win until the day I finally did.
Mix tapes you made for me that soothed me to sleep many angsty nights.
Transporting the cat and cleaning up the aftermath.
Teaching me to drive the truck, a stick, and parking on hills two days before the test.
Late-night car repairs in the freezing cold, under the lamp of the mall parking lot.
Always coming when I called.
Wednesday night pizza and flute lessons for years and years and years.
Leaving the decision in my fourteen-year-old hands to decide to fly or stay home, knowing there are no guarantees in life, only choices.
Two quotes, spoken at different times, that lasted a lifetime: “That’s one thing I admire about you, Sarah. You never take the easy way out,” and “I trust you.”
Our journey to Maryland in a fully loaded van, leaving at 3:02 a.m.
Journey to Baltimore, building a shower, more car repairs.
Always coming when I called.
Holding our newborn babies in your white-suited arms.
Gifting your granddaughters tool boxes with real tools.
Walking and talking every morning, Massachusetts treadmill to NY yard trail.
Loving me as I am, no matter what.
Building ramps for Linda, then Grandma.
Rising up and caring for Grandma in ways no one knew that you could and would.
Calling when the cuckoo clock chimed.
Letting me in.
Working side-by-side with my mom; letting her in too.
Being gracious and kind.
Always answering when I call.
Sounding so glad to hear from me, no matter how many times we’ve spoken that day.
Leadership, politics, ethics, and food.
“I love you,” at the end of every call.
Growing into fatherhood as I grew into womanhood in astounding, tremendous ways.
Your humor, your love, the depth of your care.
Dad.