When I look back over the years of my life, I have so much to be thankful for. No family is perfect, but I had a dad who stayed faithful and married to my mom, who worked most of his adult life at one job, who provided for our needs, and took us to church. And made us do what was right. I remember being maybe 9 when we went into a thrift store or junk store someplace, and finding a Barbie flower bouquet on the floor. Someone had taken it out of the package, and I could see the package it came out of, but I told myself that if it was just laying on the floor, it was fair game. So I picked it up and put it in my pocket. When we got in the car and left, I took it out and was looking at it. I think probably one of my brothers, said something, like, “where did you get that?” Probably he had asked for something in the store and was told he couldn’t have it, so he wondered why I got something. I said I had found it on the floor. My Dad stopped the car, made me come and show him what I had, and then we went back to the store, and returned it.
Mom tells me that Dad enjoyed us as babies, just loved coming home, and picking us up, playing with us. For the most part we weren’t really demonstrative of affection in our family. The hugging was reserved for when we went to see the grandparents, and when we left again. I think it was in my teen years, youth group, Teen Missions, I picked up the hugging habit, and I think that I sort of brought it into the family, and over time we got better at it.
But I remember a day, sometime in my early teens, when Dad was home, working on the car. My brothers were off probably someplace on their bikes or with friends, and I just wanted to have some father/daughter time with my Dad. It was a nice day, so I went out where he was, and I was just sort of hovering around. Now, I know that he was probably irritated with whatever was wrong with the car, but I wasn’t aware of that then. The most prominent image of him in my memory, is with his head under the hood of a car. I saw him that way a lot. He didn’t do it for fun. Back then, before everything became electronic, most car repairs could be done at home, and it saved money. Well, I was trying to initiate conversation with him, and I asked him a question about some part under the hood. He didn’t answer me. I sort of backed away a little, and tried again, this time asking about what it was he was working on. He sort of took a loud, impatient breath, blew it out, glanced over at me with his eyebrows drawn together, and just went on with what he was doing. I got the message, and went away. I remember going back inside, and going into my room, and crying.
I only have boys. Middle school is when they start transitioning into the grown-up body. At that age, boys don’t want mama hugging and kissing on them in front of their friends. I remember the first time my oldest reacted that way, and I took it as a cue, and became less affectionate with him overall. But I missed his hugs and it made me feel sad. And one day, at home, I just hugged him like I used to, and he seemed so happy to get that hug, he just sort of held on a fraction longer when I was letting go. I realized that he had missed the hugs as much as I had, and ever since then, we give our hugs back and forth freely, and now he’s in high school, he’s not even sheepish if I hug him in front of people. My younger son is still in the “not interested in Mom’s hugs too much right now” stage, but he still tolerates it for my sake from time to time.
I guess that dads may go through a similar thing with their girls. Since we had not been particularly affectionate to begin with, it wasn’t so much a change in that, but I just remember feeling from my adolescent years, on up, like I needed and wanted a relationship all my own with my Dad, but didn’t really have one.
I think he may have wanted that too, but just didn’t know how. Maybe he didn’t understand how much I needed him, figuring Mom was enough. She was much more engaged with us kids, but that was just how it was in their day. Dads are special in the life of girls. I remember when I was 4, and my Dad gave me a penny for the Bubble Gum machine. I got a prize, and it was a ring with an orange star. I was as crazy about that star ring as only a four-year-old can be. When we got home, climbing out of the car, my big brother stepped on my hand, and crushed the ring. I cried like it was the end of the world. I remember my Dad picking me up, and comforting me, and asking me what was the matter. I told him Chucky had crushed my pretty ring, and my Dad kissed me and promised me he would get me another one. That soothed my soul, and made me feel better, and isn’t it funny that years and years later, I remember that promise. I never did get that new bubble-gum-machine ring, but on a trip home a few years back, Dad gave me a little money, and I found an orange star ring on e-bay, and bought it with that money. Now I wear my star ring and think of my dad.
Once when I was in the rocky patch with the second husband (H20), Dad sent me flowers at my work. He signed them “from a secret admirer” but my Mom told me it was from him because she was afraid that might cause a problem. I was so blessed, and so touched that my Dad did that. It really meant a lot, and I told him so. Another memory that goes back further, I think I was probably 11 or 12. He had been out to yard sales with my uncle, and he came home with a set of 3 glass swans, they were like dishes to keep trinkets in, or maybe even ash trays, but they were solid and glass, and I really liked them. He also had picked up a little tiny blue Donald Duck purse like maybe a six-year-old would play with. And I remember asking my Mom, “Mom, why would Dad buy me this baby-purse?” She said, “well, he probably doesn’t know the difference, but maybe its just that he still sees you as his little girl”. That just melted my heart. I held onto that though, because it meant so much for me to hear that my Dad felt that way about me. Those were prized possessions. The swans all eventually got broken, but I still have that Donald Duck purse.
My Dad had his pet sayings, like most Dad’s do. One thing he always said when you were starting to leave, was “Don’t go!”. One Valentines Day, many years ago, he came across a white candy heart which had that written on it. My Dad put it in an envelope, and saved it until the next time I came. He wrote his nickname for me on the outside (Sis-Pooh), and gave the envelope to me unsealed. When I opened it and saw what it said, I couldn’t eat it. I kept that candy heart, sealed in that envelope for years in my jewelry box. I thought, maybe when he passes away, I’ll slip that into his pocket to take with him. But I ran across someone a few years ago, who could take that heart and seal it inside of enamel and make it into a charm. Now that heart is on my charm bracelet. The next Valentines day, I found a blank white heart in the candy-hearts, and wrote in pink sharpie “Don’t go”. It looked just like the one he had given me. I put it in the envelope, which I still had, and kept it there in my jewelry box. In November when he died, I slipped it into his pocket when I said goodbye at the funeral.
By the time I had met Garrett, my Dad and I had become pals. We talked easily, joked with one another, and I think that I reminded him of his mom and sisters. I got their same “tell-it-like-it-is” way of talking, and that same sense of humor. The grandmother who died when I was right at the end of nursing school, was my Dad’s mom, and out of all the people in my family, she is the one I feel I am most like.
Over the years, my relationship with my Dad became very good. He and I were good buddies. We enjoyed talking about the Bible, and politics. Trading books, and just being silly sometimes.
You see, there is something that a child can only get from a Dad. This is scriptural, and not just my opinion. Who was it all through the Old Testament, who gave the blessing to the children? It was the father. I was not abused by my Dad, and I wasn’t neglected as far as provision, and his physical presence in the home. But I grew up with a sense of longing to feel that he took notice of me, and that he approved of me. He worked shift work, and he worked extra shifts whenever he could because the extra money always came in handy when you had 4 kids. When he was home during the day, he had to be sleeping part of that day. And when he wasn’t at work, or sleeping, he was doing what had to be done to maintain the car, the house.
I believe that dynamic played a role in my vulnerability to the first husband (lets call him H1) when he came along. That is not to lay blame upon my father. But that covering of a father, over the daughter, in spiritual headship, is meant to be there until her marriage, which is why the father “gives away” the bride in traditional weddings.
The blessing is the fathers seal of approval, his affirmation! Boys who don’t receive it, also suffer in life. God knew what He was about when He came up with the design for marriage, for families. When we deviate from that, there is a cost. Fortunately, for the many people in the world today who never knew their father, or whose father did not give them a blessing, didn’t nurture or affirm them, they can still be whole, they can still get that need met, by looking to the Heavenly Father.
Once Dad and I did have more of a relationship of our own, I feel like it more than made up for what I felt we missed when I was younger and still living at home. I am very thankful for the Dad God gave me. He is Home in heaven now, reunited with his mom and dad and siblings, and a handful of my cousins who have already gone ahead. As I am scheduling this for posting, Dad is spending his first birthday in the presence of Jesus. He has seen the face of God! I look forward to our reunion, and expect that it won’t be long at all.