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Across the miles: A tale in one photo

"The missing never ends, nor does that love that reached from my dad to me to my daughter and back," Mary Bird Lanzavecchia.

Photo by Julia Kuzenkov on Unsplash

Last night, as my daughter sifted through boxes of her childhood memories pulled from our garage storage, she searched for a particular stuffed bear, the only one she wanted in the box of old stuffed animals tucked away years ago. She knew it by just a glimpse of the satin-topped paw, her “Grandpa Teddy Bear.” My dad gave her that bear when she was 3 or 4, when it seemed half her size and filled her arms. Inside the bear was a recording box Dad used to record a message that played when she pressed its paw. As a child, she played it often, but as the years passed, it, like the Velveteen Rabbit, was well loved but eventually tucked aside.

Yesterday, she pressed its paw again, hoping to hear my dad’s voice. We both were. Nothing. I opened the back of the bear and found an old battery had been left in, but only minor corrosion on the small connectors. We held hope as my husband worked his detailed magic.

In the meantime, I returned to painting the kitchen walls.

My daughter emerged behind me and I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions I felt when she pressed that little
paw. For the first time in almost 24 years, I heard Dad’s voice. Tears burned my eyes, and I felt my dad reach into my heart and hold me. My daughter apologized, but there was no need. The missing never ends, nor does that love that reached from my dad to me to my daughter and back. More than two decades ago, Dad gave my daughter a priceless gift; one that could stretch across the miles of time and reach into both of our hearts, perhaps more than it had the day she received it.

Before she left with her sweet bear, she asked me if I wanted to hear him one more time. I said yes, then took a moment to close my eyes and call up the memory of the day my dad gave it to her. My daughter wore a dress. She loved wearing dresses. He sat on the couch and his eyes were soft, the way they always were, especially around children. She threw her arms around him, not just excited for a new stuffed bear but one that had Grandpa’s voice telling her he loved her. She pressed that little paw over and over again.

It was a hit then. It is a treasure now.