Sometimes it can be a thing as little as a jar of peanuts — with its faint but distinct smell just strong enough to evoke memories in my father’s lap while we snacked in the big blue chair in the living room.
Or it can be a note — a little, brief handwritten card hidden in my things as I first moved away to college; a simple yet powerful reminder of how seamlessly the past and the future bridge and how, even in the overwhelming blur of thousands of equally driven and successful and ambitious classmates, there are people who will notice and will take pride in the things I choose to do every single day.
And sometimes in things much larger. As I live abroad on my own for three months, as I miss deeply my family and my friends and soon after remember the times, with great aplomb and grace, you have done this. As I must sacrifice time with the most important people in my life, I think of the nine months a few years ago — in Afghanistan — and the six months before that — in Iraq — and the hours every week you spent while you were gone watching every second of our recorded middle school sports games and band concerts and any and everything else just to make sure you never miss out on a single thing in our lives.
And how you have brought back little trinkets from every little place you have been and seen — and how these slowly growing collections have fueled my wanderlust for travel.
And how were somehow still always there — and how you still are always there. Even when you were not actually there, or I was not. How you have inspired me to want to be successful — to be a renaissance-like cook and griller and gardener and coach and to be a better person and a better friend and, someday, a father myself.
To give me goals for the future — to someday eat peanuts in a big blue chair with a little blue eyed child who someday will be able to look back to those moments for times of grounding or comfort or happiness.
It all makes up part of it — all of the jars of peanuts and the little moments and the big ones and the cards and the things I watched and did and felt. It all makes up the art of fatherhood: a beautifully complicated combination of inspiration and admiration and dedication and appreciation.
Appreciation- today, on Father’s Day, we take the time to appreciate the fathers in our lives — what they have done for us, what they will do for us. I take the time to appreciate the sometimes needed reminder that it can all be possible.
To raise a family, to have a successful professional career, to be a role model, and to be happy along the whole ride.
And even, if we are lucky, to take the precious time to split a jar of peanuts with those most important to us.
Connor Belson Student and editor-at-large, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on June 22, 2016.