A few nights ago on our walk we got into the topic of the role a Dad plays in a child's life. We talked about how no matter how lame our Dad's have been, or how many times they've disappointed us in our childhood, they still fail to do no wrong in our eyes. Our Dads sit, in all of their Daddy-glory on gigantic pedestals and can never be removed. I looked back at my youth and told Dustin stories of how my Dad never missed a gymnastics practice, he knew all of the moves to my routines, he scooped me up when I broke my wrist on the uneven bars and he was the best soft ball coach I ever had. My senior year of high school, he rushed home when I called him hysterical after I got my heart broken by a boy and locked me in my room because I was out of control. He practiced tough love by taking me (kicking and screaming) to see a therapist, which never really helped- She just gave me a list of books to read, which I never read. But knowing that he wanted so much for me to get better was the most important medicine. I knew he cared deeply for me. I told Dustin that in high school, my Dad's opinion of me was far more important than my peers, my family's, even my Moms. If he thought I was awesome, I was awesome. A few nights before we got married, I remember crying to Dustin asking him if he was going to take care of me like my Dad took care of me. I knew that if I was sick, I could count on my Dad to rummage through the medicine cabinet to find me medicine, to hug me, to go to the store for tampons for me or make me something to eat. Dads are important, they're essential; they're more significant than we sometimes understand.
Rewind to a few years before and heres the story of how he became my Dad: When I was about 6 or 7 my Mom started dating a guy she worked with at a glass shop. He had two daughters who were my age. They lived in apartments down the street from us. We would go over to Jim's house on the weekends and I even got to have sleep overs with Allison and Jennifer. We went swimming, we roller skated together, and we took baths together-they were like my new instant best friends. Jim made us a 3 story Barbie house for our Barbie’s made out of cardboard and plexi glass. As time went on, and money was tight, Jim and my Mom decided to move in together. I was totally fine with this because he was the first guy that I actually liked out of the guys my mom had dated. Jim was a good cook, he made amazing steak, he made us colored pancakes with food coloring on Sundays and he watched kid movies with us. He made EVERYTHING more fun. On Easter, we had scavenger hunts where we would read riddles off of paper plates that lead us to different areas of the house to find eggs. (This is a tradition we still practice every year and I think he gets a kick out of seeing his kids ages 28, 24 and 24 stumped at his riddles- he makes them more difficult every year.) My biological father left my Mom when I was 2 years old, I didn't meet him until I was 12. So having Jim around to raise me made me feel like he wanted me when my real Dad didn't. He took me in as his own. He was easy to love.
At the end of my senior year, he had a massive brain aneurysm and doctors say he should have dropped dead. He was in the hospital for 32 days, went through 2 brain surgeries and miraculously survived. I remember the moment before his first Brain surgery when I hugged him goodbye and said I love you. I called him Dad. Probably the first time I had done that. I was terrified. I didn't know if he'd come out of this surgery and be a vegetable forever, if he'd remember me, or if he’d survive. All I could do was pray. That was the scariest time of my life. I was the only person who came to see him after his last surgery. It was 9:30 at night when I got to the hospital. I was by myself. I walked into his dark hospital room to see him laying there, disoriented, and looking like Frankenstein all bandaged up. He had requested that I bring him Chap Stick along with some pajama pants. I forgot the Chap Stick, and when I told him I'd forgotten it, he started crying-and my Dad NEVER cries. I offered my lip gloss. He didn't want my lip gloss. I then realized how fragile he was. Both of his eyes were black from the doctor pulling his skin down to do his surgery, his ear also had yellow and blue bruises. He couldn't open one of his eyes; he had double vision for about 6 months. He was very sensitive and vulnerable. He had lost about 30 pounds. He was very thin and weak. He had black outs and forgot where he was at times. One night I was walking Dustin to the door and we saw my Dad on the couch massaging ice cream into his feet. He wasn't the same. He'd lost himself. I was scared. I didn't know how to help him. Time passed and slowly he started to act more like himself. He had fewer seizures, he didn't get tired as quickly, he could drive on his own again, and he was starting to remember things. It was tough to see such a strong figure in my life become so weak. He was starting from scratch. When he drove he would shake and get really scared. Being a Catholic all of his life, he wasn't new to prayer....
About a year after his surgery, a doctor said that his progress is absolutely amazing and wanted to know what my dad had been doing differently. My Dad said "I've been praying." After a series of tragic events that took place over the two years that followed his surgery, He got involved in a church, went to Thailand twice to serve, made new friends in his bible study, goes camping regularly with his new friends, makes sure that my Mom doesn't miss a single bible study and volunteers at the church he attends. He is eager to talk about God, he is willing to pray, he reaches out to people who are struggling, He is an imperfect man who loves Jesus and is passionate about becoming "Papa" to his new grandson. I've said it before but he is the epitome of a "Real Christian" in my eyes. He's not putting on a show, he doesn't act like he knows it all, he still says "hell" and "shit", and he’s relatable. He doesn't act holier than thou. He's got a way of always including God into everything. At Thanksgiving, he's made it a tradition to have the whole family stand holding hands as he gives a speech. He talks about the year we've had, reflects on how fortunate we are, talks about what he's thankful for and there is never a dry eye in the room. He then usually asks Dustin to say grace.
Dad's have such an everlasting impact on their kid’s life. With all of his miss-steps and failures, he can do no wrong.
So lately both Dustin and I have been talking about how huge of a task it is to be a good Godly Dad that our son can look back at in his 20's and say "My Dad sits, with all of his Daddy-glory on a gigantic pedestal and can never be removed."
Dads are so important.