Keep your chin up. Those are not uncommon words to hear from my dad. Throughout my life, I have heard them over and over, finding much comfort in them. As a child, I usually heard those four words following a situation. Either I had made a poor decision, or I was hurt, or I was just really sad.
I recall being at boarding school for exactly 10 days when I had to call home to tell my parents that I was being suspended for smoking. Perspiring, I dialled their telephone number, while praying that my mom would answer. Mom might cry, but dad would yell. I simply couldn’t handle disappointment that would rear its ugly head through yelling.
Dad picked up. He sounded happy. “What’s up?” he asked. Oh dear.
“Well, I am in a little bit of trouble…” my voice shaked as I explained the situation. He grunted, “What the heck are you doing smoking!?” (It was almost a yell.) I burst into tears, blubbering something about being “sorry.” He then offered me kindness and words of encouragement. And just before I passed the phone to the Dean of Women, he said, “Keep your chin up.”
A couple of years ago, I received a voicemail from my dad. This time his voice shook. I was in the process of miscarrying Alex and I’s first baby, and my mom had informed my dad about the situation. Through just a few sentences, I could sense his confusion, concern, and condolences. As he was concluding his 23-second long message, I heard him say, “Keep your chin up.” Yet again, those words provided me strength from the strongest man I know.
More recently, since the birth of Alex and I’s daughter, I have heard that phrase many times. Weary and sleep deprived at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, I received a phone call from my dad, wanting to check in on his two-month-old granddaughter (and daughter too, I suspect). While we didn’t know the prognosis yet, we did know that she didn’t have meningitis, and that we were in the best possible facility to treat an infant battling infection. Sensing my exhaustion, doubt, and sadness, he says, “Keep your chin up.” In that moment, my chin stayed up, but it quivered. It quivered out of gratitude, knowing that there was strength and support behind the words he brought me.
While I could write many, many stories about keeping my chin up, I will leave it at those three. That being said, I do want to convey my appreciation to the man that has uplifted me with those words so many times. I have come to find solace in them and in him.
And dad, if you’re reading this, I hope that I can someday return the strength and encouragement you’ve given me, providing you with comfort, confidence, and consolation. Happy Father’s Day.