When I was a child, I used to crawl up onto the roof above my bedroom, drape a blanket on the scratchy shale and lay down to look at the stars.
I'd sleep there, dreaming of constellations and quasars.
I developed a love for astronomy from my dad. Every once in a while he'd pull out his old telescope and set it up in the front yard. "Come here, Heidi," he'd say, "And look at the moon." I loved those nites - I'd see strange worlds and beautiful vistas through that little glass.
Other days, he'd load us kids up in his beat up old Ford and drive us up to a wide-open slope on the back-side of a mountain near the local airport. We'd clamber out of the cab and Mom would set up a picnic area, and us little ones would scamper off to explore the hillside while Dad assembled a kite and carefully set it loose in the heavens.
He was always big on freedom. Freedom was one of those words in our household that resonated like Jesus and America permeates other homes. It was a living, breathing creature, a religion to my father. Us kids were given freedom - freedom to choose, freedom to make our own mistakes, freedom to explore and test our world. And Dad told us that the one thing that can never be taken from us - after everything else has passed away - is the freedom we carry in hearts.
Today I'm heading out. I haven't seen my dad in almost 10 years. He's been locked away in a hot Arizona prison for most of that time. I'll pull into that prison town tomorrow morning. And I get to do something that most kids never do. I get to return to a father who gave his kids all he had to give the one thing that means the most to him - his freedom.