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« Superhero Photo Challenge: out the window | Main | Love Thursday: March 27, 2008 »

Following Our Dreams All the Way Home

This is my father.
Nicotine stained, work-worn, full of fire, fueled by possibility.

He is a rascal, a maverick, a speculator, a pirate.  
He is hopeful.  He is unchanging.  He is mine.

He takes the long way home, so I can see the sunset across the bridge.  He tells stories about the car, how he bought it for seven hundred and eleven dollars a few months ago.  How they charge him next to nothing for insurance because they don’t expect him to be able to drive a thirty-year old car this fast.  I can barely hear him over the roar of the engine, over the sound of the wind whipping my hair around my face.  

We soar down the road like a rocket.

My whole life I can barely remember him even though I grew up in the house we both call our home.  He is busy.  He is traveling.  He is gone.  My mother pulls her coat over her pregnant belly in the winter and goes out to the patio to chop wood for the fireplace.  I’m sure there is a good reason for this, but I cannot remember it.  Where is my father?  I do not know.

The parts I do remember are like this.  He is calling home.  He is helping some homeless guy he just met. He is bringing home some Austrian backpackers who are shocked that they lock the churches here, and now they have nowhere to sleep.  He is talking to the man who is determined to end his life.  He is driving some guy to the emergency room, because he found him stabbed on the street.   He is collecting wildflowers off the side of the highway, because they are beautiful.  He is bringing home flowers for all of us, because we are his little women.

All this, I understand, with all my heart.

When he doesn’t call it is because he is smoking cigarettes in his office, adding up his dreams in lines of little numbers written in pen on paper napkins.  He is at the airport.  He is with the client at a restaurant.  He is selling something.  He is working harder than any man has ever worked before. He is waiting for this deal to come through.  He is waiting for his ship to come in. No matter what, there is always work and traveling and the sound of the television and the numbers on the napkins.  No matter what.

This I make peace with over years, over time.  I extract all the numbers until dreams form like poems on my napkins.  I learn to follow these dreams (just as he followed his) with all my heart.  

We are almost to the bridge now.  He tells me about the car, and how happy it makes him.  He tells me how beautiful the stars are overhead, when he drives with the top down late at night.  He tells me how they make him think of me.  How much he knows I would enjoy the view.   In this moment, his heart is as expansive as the sky above, and I can’t believe how lucky I am—to experience his love for me in this moment, so perfect, so complete.

He slows down at the top of the bridge, so I can capture the sunset.   I take twenty pictures as fast as I can, but in the end none means as much to me as this.   What more could I need than this love?  This forgiveness?  The memory of his hand at the wheel as we follow our dreams all the way home?


May you discover the story of your life today, dear sisters, as you look through the lens with love in your eyes and hope in your soul.  Do you have a photo that is dear to you because of the story it tells your heart?   I'd be delighted to see your links in the comments below.

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    By Jenny and Mindy It's that time again. Time to bail out Mindy from her wild Saturday night and sew the legs back on the dog. Also to spotlight some of the best stuff that we (and our luscious readers)...

Reader Comments (72)

Jen, dear Jen. I am so taken by this photo and by this story. This story that breaks my heart only to pour it full to over flowing with hope and gratitude. I am weepy now and appreciating my own father and how much I love him and everything he is (and even what he isn't). Thank you for sharing this with us Jen. Your sharing is a blessing.
March 27, 2008 | Registered CommenterTracey Clark
This picture and story are so *full*. I feel like I can see, smell, touch, taste, hear the story behind the photo and in the words. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
That's a beautiful Pic and a eautiful story. Thanks for sharing it today.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHay
Oh this story explains a lot - you are truly your father's daughter in your sense of adventure, the simple awe you bring to life, your own endlessly expansive heart.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTess
Incredible!!! I feel like I just left the theater after seeing the best movie emotional on so many levels. How lucky you are to have those memories, that story, that photo!!! How lucky your dad is that you have such a deep understanding and love for him. Thank you so much for sharing!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLauren C.
This is amazing! It makes me miss my dad more than ever and it makes me hope that my kids understand why my husband works so hard and has to be away from home so often.
I usually take photos of other people's moments or emotions I want to savor in my family, but you have inspired me to photograph with my soul and tell my own story. Thank you!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
I just took this one yesterday...
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen - Beebee Mod
Your father must be so proud to have a daughter who appreciates him so much for the person that he is and is able to express that appreciation so beautifully in both words and pictures. That photo is so strong and definitely tells a story. I've taken pictures of babies hands, but never thought to take pictures of an older persons hands. I don't know why though, as you get older the hands seem to tell you so much about a person and as much as they all seem to look alike, I know I'll always recognize my own parents' hands and I should capture them on film in case someday their hands are not here to look at anymore. Thank you for this inspiration!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKeri
Jen - This is simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing this and for capturing a moment with words and a picture oh so well.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSam Davidson
That was just beautiful. The story and the photo are just incredibly heartfelt and rich. What a way to start my day. Thanks for this one.

I hesitate to post a link. I want to savor your story like I would a good film or book I just finished. I don't want to break the mood. I want to drive home with your story in my head in silence.I suspect a lot of people will feel the same.

If you want to see one of the photos telling one of the stories in my heart though, you can wander over here:
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTracie
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
All I can say is wow...what an amazing, beautiful post and picture. Thank you for sharing.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Eaves
My father and I both share a love for photography, and we are both stubborn squareheads, as my mother likes to say. Although we don't have deep conversations, we understand each other. We just know what each other is thinking. The thought of disappointing him makes me feel awful inside.

Although he is tough on the exterior, he is a big teddy bear on the inside. He will always be my daddy, and I will always be his daddy's girl!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Wow. What a story. This made me want to look through my lens differently. See if I can record the story more than just a moment.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLu
What a beautiful story. Here is a picture that speaks to my heart.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
What a moving picture and moving words to go with it. Sometimes a picture can just capture so much, like you did with this one. Wonderful post.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkacey
Wow! I am so moved by this post. Thanks for sharing.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen
Oh my gosh. I can't say just how beautiful this image and words are. Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, love stories, especially family stories. I try to record them when I can, and I'm starting to use my blog more for stories. I have no photo today, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the post.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShelli
Beautiful story and picture!!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Eyed Girl
your words are beautiful. this is so very well said, this is many fathers. this is many husbands. this is many wives married to them, this is many daughters raised in their homes. i will look for the story of my life today. thank you for this!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercamerashymomma
okay. now I'm in tears.

this is beautiful jen.

March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterandrea scher
and that photo is stunning. It stopped me in my tracks, so evocative..
and the tones are lush and perfect.

beautiful work all around dear one.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterandrea scher
Oh my goodness. That is simply breathtaking. The hands, the car, the story. Here is my young Mother with my sister and I. So glamorous and elegant. I miss her each and every day.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth laufer
Beautiful story, beautiful photo.

My life's story is never far away-my son. I think our journey to this date is why he is my favorite thing to take photos of. He's my life, my miracle, the sun in my skies.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercuzamora
Jen, your story and photo are so beautiful. I was always a daddy's girl, and I still miss my dad every day 6 years after I lost him.

I've posted a photo and story too:

March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah - Ji
oh wow jen, wow. i am without words.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjessamyn
You are so blessed to still have your Dad in your life. I never knew my Dad as an adult, he died when I was 18. But, it sounds to me like you have a complete grasp of what a treasure that is.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteraola
You're such a beautiful person, Jen.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkerflop
i felt the wind too...
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertillie
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. If I ever achieve anything half so beautifully evocative, I will be satisfied.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermary
This post brought tears to my eyes. So beautiful.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi
Jen, that's a beautiful story and a gorgeous photo. Thank you for sharing it with us.

I do have some photos I'd like to share. I blogged about them as well:
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLawyer Mama
You definitely have a gift of words. That photo is a perfect accompaniment to your story of your father. Beautiful.

This is a sort of poem I wrote about my son growing up:
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
That was GORGEOUS. So heartfelt and moving. So much love.

I recently took a picture of my brother's hands and the leftover dishes from a shared lunch together that I adore.

(it's here:

Later wondered why I love it so much, it's not the most technically brilliant photo--not by a long shot. But sometimes these photos tell us stories, sometimes there is so much hidden behind the picture, and sometimes a photo is the image made manifest of our love and emotion. That's why I love it so.

Thanks for a simply exquisite post!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTea
This is perhaps the most beautiful thing I've ever read. Weeping. I am literally weeping, here in my workplace cubicle. Jen Lemen, although I have never met you, I admire you, endlessly. Your words inspire and touch so many of us out in the world -- and although we will probably never get the chance to meet, please know that you are able to change a person's life in 500 words or less. And that, my friend, is a true gift of spirit & heart.

Thank you.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Lierk
I have fallen in love with your father much like a daughter would. How touchingly beautiful. Not only are you a wonderful photographer, you are a superb writer as well. Thank you for this.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Jen, your writing (and photo) is just gorgeous...
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Giles Klocke
My WORD, JEN!!! You can write so incredibly beautifully. I wait every time I check your blog (or here), with bated breath. Will this be the post that touches my soul? The post that brings tears to my eyes? The post that makes me feel like someone grew up in a family kinda like mine? The post that makes me want to love big, bigger than big? And I'm so moved and excited and filled with love when I am rewarded with a post like this one. You are amazing.

Such similar dad's we do have. I giggle when I think about it. My dad's hands look just like your dad's. I need a picture of them. And a story. Thanks for the inspiration!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
What a touching post. Here's an image of my dad - waiting calmly and happily to take his part in my stepsister's wedding. Ever ready with the crossword puzzle book, he found a quiet spot to keep himself busy! I love the shot of him - it's one of my favorites from the entire wedding day!
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen
Your dad sounds exactly like and completely unlike my own in many ways. Thanks for sharing your story in typical jen lemen fashion (ie, soul-stirring, heart-tugging, emotionally true with no fake sentimentality) and helping me remember the best parts of my dad and my relationship with him. He passed away in 2000. I wish now I had a photo of his beautiful, gentle hands....
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElaine
How is it possible that everything you write reads like a love letter...?
Your heart opens wide enough to include all of us, and I feel so rich because of it. Thank you, lovely Jen.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwilsonian
i'm speechless. beautiful.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTD wool design
What an amazing post - photo, words, all of it.

This one is my friends little girl. Despite all of her vast struggles, she is a happy playful child. She beautiful, and greets me with a loud "Aunt Ally" every time I see her. I get a hug and a smile that lights my world. She's amazing and this photo reminds me to see the world and the struggles of it through her eyes.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlly
What a wonderful post to click on on this rainy, stay-at-home night. This is story was so moving, it reminds me of my grandfather. He did things like this too. Thank you for putting something this personal out there, it's truly touching.
March 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChloe
I just love this photo - and the attached story too. It made me want to rush out and take a photo (one of my favourite pass times)
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAuthor
Breathtaking. So perfectly written. Blessed you both see to be!
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermendy
Thanks Jenny for sharing this amazing Love story between you and your dad.
Lucky girl! You're daddy's girl for real.
Thanks again.
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFatou Coulibaly
thank you for sharing this sacred story and photo. a true gift.
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrené
I have no words to express how this moved me.
thank you.
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Casey
dearest jen,
this piece has to be your best. my heart is busting.....
March 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermarilee pittman

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