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  • Kristan Higgins

Dear Old Dads

Updated: May 6, 2022

In PACK UP THE MOON, Lauren is a self-described daddy’s girl. When her dad dies during Lauren’s sophomore year of college, she’s understandably wrecked. But being herself, she tries to make the best of it, to learn from her dear dad’s well-lived life and make him proud.

I know the feelings, because they’re mine. My dad died when I was 23 years old, and I’ve spent the past 33 years missing him. Here’s what Lauren says about Dave, her father.

No man was perfect, of course…except her dad. He was funny, corny, indulgent enough, strict enough, and went through life happily stunned at his great luck in marrying Donna, the love of his life. Daughters? What could be better than two perfect girls? Nothing! Lauren knew it was a rare dad who can make both his girls feel like they’re his favorite.

Daddy’s girl!

The only difference between Lauren’s dad and mine is that mine (sadly) lacked the corny dad joke talent. My dad was a little on the smug side (my relatives reading this will snort and say, “A little?”). He grew up the overly worshiped only child/ son/ heir/ prince. My grandmother once said to me, “Your father was regarded as the Christ child in our house.” Okay, then! So you can see where it came from.

Sainted Mother is 25 here, clutching her sturdy middle child and either pregnant with or just past having my sister and she is SLAYING.

The other thing my dad was smug about was my mom. He married the prettiest, smartest, funniest woman in the world, a flashy redhead with a mischievous streak that should’ve landed her in jail more than it did. The life of the party, the golden couple. By the time they were twenty-five, they had three kids and a mortgage, something that seems shocking by today’s standards.

Dad taught me to swim by towing me out over my head at Herring Pond, and then just letting me go, shouting that I just had to kick, and I’d be fine. I learned to ski by being chair-lifted to the top of a mountain, pointed downward, and given a healthy shove. (Needless to say, this resulted in me drinking hot chocolate and reading Jane Eyre in the lodge for the rest of the day.)

The only one my horse would behave for was Dad.

When I rode my horse, he would smack her butt to make her gallop off, me clinging on in desperation, him laughing and telling me it built character. (Dad. Really?) He taught me to drive on a manual transmission, a skill I still lord over my tragic children, who lack this skill.

I’ve dreamt of my father dozens of times over the past three decades…that he’s visiting me, that he’s watching my kids, that he met McIrish. Like Lauren, I believe he’ll be waiting for me when I die, grinning, handsome, thrilled to have his older daughter with him again. Sometimes, I get a feeling that he’s right here with me. That, and the twenty-three years of solidly believing in my intelligence and kindness, teaching me to work hard, urging me to do something meaningful with my life, of showing me as much of the world as he could…that’s more than enough. Lauren and I were awfully lucky in the dad department.

Thanks, Dad. I wouldn’t be the person I am without you.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there and in the Great Beyond. You are still so loved.


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