I did something today that took, for me, an immense amount of courage. First, I called my parents and asked them for help with a financial matter. Dad didn't hesitate to help and we made plans for me to come out to their house tonight. That done, I went home and took a nap. When I woke up, I drove the 40-mile stretch of road in the black-interiored Chevy Blazer and got to my parents' house safely.

When I arrived, Mom, Dad and I sat outside to enjoy the cool night air of Tennessee. We talked about T-cells, The Da Vinci Code, bugs and how to be rid of them, Dad's experience of baking a cake and taking a hot bath in India many years ago, and my curent job. Mom went inside before us, but Dad and I remained outside so that he could finish his cigar and I could smoke a cigarette. Nice conversation.

Dad and I finally went inside, when we could no longer stand the mosquitoes, so he could write me a check. We sat down on the living room couch to talk some more until he got up to boil himself some hot water for his bath (the gas had been shut off in a mix-up with the gas company and hot water was not yet available in the house). While he did that, I meandered over to the family computer and called up E2. While he busied himself at the stove, I brought up one of my write-ups and quietly decided that now was the right time to read it to him.

I told him that I wanted to read him a story I'd written some time ago and would appreciate his undivided attention. I waited patiently, nervously for him to set the pot to simmer and he finally took a seat beside me. Mom came in before I started reading and sat down, too, curious about this odd occurance: dad and son sitting in front of the computer together.

And for the next half-hour I read "I now understand wood" to both my mom and dad, aloud. At the time I just wanted to show him my appreciation for his helping me tonight, but by the time I was done reading, I realized that I had wanted to share with him an appreciation which ran much deeper.

I maintained my composure through all of it, until I got to the very last paragraph. At that point I read nearly every word aloud between tearful gasps and sharp intakes of air. It was one of the most powerful father/son experiences I'd ever had, reading that story back to him, a story which was about him.

When I finished, I looked at him and said, "This story only scratches the surface of the many ways you've touched my life and influenced me. And I meant it when I said that you are my hero, that I aspire to be like you. I can not thank you enough for all the incredible things you've shown and done for me in this life. But there ya go."

He was silent for many long seconds and then said, "All this time, I sorta took it for granted when you said that you were a writer. But, my God, son. You are a writer! That was..." his eyes filled up with emotion as he paused to find the right word, "Thank you."

A hug has never felt so good as that one. Damn, I'm a lucky man to have the parents that I do.