A cousin recently sent me a sweet message.
While walking in her neighborhood in Alexandria, Va., she had heard a distinctive call and paused to see if she could spot the songster. It was a cardinal, and that sparked a memory.
It was about a visit to my family's West Side home as a teenager. She was sitting on our front porch when she saw a female cardinal break into song in a nearby tree.
"I asked Uncle Harold about it when he got home, but he said that the female didn't sing," she wrote. "I begged to differ since I had seen it with my very own eyes."
He called a friend the next day and confirmed that though it didn't happen often, the female cardinal would sing and she had the same call as the male.
"You have seen a very rare thing," he told her.
All of the kids in my dad's sphere learned to recognize such things. He loved nature and was always teaching. When we visited a state park, our perennial vacation, at dusk we would pile into the car and slowly drive the park roads, "looking for tiny animals."
He knew the waning light would draw deer, raccoon and other creatures out of the woods and into the meadows to feed. If we were lucky, the car lights would catch their eye shine, and we would be treated to a special sight.
Deer are more prolific these days, but I still catch my breath at the sight of one. My dad instilled a permanent sense of wonder.
At home, he sometimes would play an album of bird songs. I have amused my own children by recreating some of those calls, and when I hear one in the woods, I often recognize the species.
I also can gaze at the sky and pick out the constellations he taught us — Orion, the dippers, the Pleiades.
Father's Day will roll around next weekend, and I wonder what advice he might give me as I head into a new phase of life.
It is because of him, after all, that I have worked for a newspaper.
He spent his career at the Charleston Gazette. Harold Gadd was the longtime editor of the former State Magazine, a special section in the Sunday paper. He assigned stories and photos, edited and occasionally wrote pieces himself.
He frequently carried a red pen in his shirt pocket. Once when he and my mom visited me at college, I proudly showed him a paper I had written for a philosophy class. The grade was A-plus.
He had just begun to read when he pulled out that red pen and aimed for my prized paper. "No!" I cried defensively.