During the two years my wife Ellen and I lived in San Diego at the beginning of our retirement from academic careers, we had an especially memorable visit during a long Memorial Day weekend from our daughter Joy and her husband Luke who live in Austin, Texas. I thought about that visit countless times, but had never told them what impressed me so much about it. Thoughts of writing a letter to express my feelings kept crossing my mind, but not wanting to be too sappy or sentimental, I kept ruling out that option.
Over a year later, with gentle urging from my wife Ellen, I decided to write this piece directly to no one, but to enclose a copy of it in the card we were about to send Joy and Luke for their wedding anniversary. Whether this method reduced the sap and sentimentality that might have been in a letter to them on this subject, I’ll never know. But here’s what stood out from their visit from my point of view.
What triggered this little essay was a misfortune. Halfway through the visit Joy got apparent food poisoning from dinner at a favorite downtown seafood restaurant. This followed a beautiful day of sightseeing, including a long walk on Torrey Pines Beach among teeming numbers of sand crabs. Sometime during the night Joy awoke with severe stomach distress. She was able to eat nothing and drink little for nearly 24 hours, and was pale and trembling from the bug. We were all disappointed that the plans for the remaining part of their trip weren’t going to work.
After breakfast that morning, while Joy was recuperating, I suggested to Luke that we go for a walk in the canyon near our home. Joy asked that we not be gone too long because she might need Luke’s help. After we had been walking 30-45 minutes along winding trails through the chaparral, Luke said,
“We probably should get back in case Joy needs me.”
When we got back home, Joy was asleep in our guest room with the shades closed.
A few minutes later I walked by the bedroom door to see Luke rubbing Joy’s brow and hair, and talking with her in a low voice. In the filtered light in just an instant I could see their faces, with smiles and eyes fixed on each other. I welled up with pride and gratitude to see such love being exchanged between the two of them—to see clearly how much Luke loves Joy.
Witnessing this event was for me, as a father of a daughter, happiness in pure form. Now, over a decade later, I still feel this way.
Life and love are beautiful things.