A FORK IN THE ROAD by Karen Travis

Hi Dad. It’s me.

For as long as I can remember, you’d ask me, “What did you do today to make the world a better place?”

I always wondered, what did you expect me to do? Whether I was seven or 47, your question always left me at a loss for words.

You were so accomplished, with a bachelor’s degree, three masters and a PhD. A leader in your field of cross-cultural counseling. Recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association.

It was always a little intimidating, living in your shadow.

I can hear you laughing at that. You never considered yourself larger than life. Your accomplishments came naturally. “I never worked a day in my life,” you’d say, brushing off compliments. You loved your work. And I know you loved me, even though you were always away. Shut in your office. Lecturing overseas.

As your oldest daughter, I wanted to make you proud. I studied psychology in college (it didn’t stick). I tried reading one of your many textbooks (over my head). I tried to find a way to follow in your footsteps, but as an adult, I was drawn down a different path.

I know you delighted in my accomplishments as a writer. You told me so, before you died. That’s why, on the way to your funeral, as we stopped the car to remove an obstacle from the road, I had to laugh. We’d picked up a perfectly flat, silver fork.

I could hear your voice in my head, chuckling: “If you see a fork in the road, take it.”

And I realized that making a difference in the world isn’t about following in someone’s footsteps. It’s about finding a path that’s all your own.

Got it, Dad. Got it.

Karen Pedersen Travis, age 60, is a retired communication consultant who now writes creative nonfiction from her home in Eden Prairie, MN.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *