I’ll Love You Forever

The longer I live,
the more convinced I am that
the way fathers love their daughters
has a profound impact on the
fabric of society.

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My dad, half-smiling on the outside. Always smiling on the inside.

 

As we have walked this last leg of the journey
with each of our mothers,
we’ve seen this truth in surprising,
and sometimes beautiful ways.

My mother-in-law grew up with an affectionate,
charming, faithful, imaginative, wordsmith for a father,
a man who adored his daughter
and told her so with every breath.
She never once doubted herself,
even as the fog of dementia rolled in

and slowly erased her life.

My mom grew up with a damaged dad,
a man who left his family of origin after 
being cheated by his own father,
and then drank and gambled his way
through mom’s early years.
He seldom had a kind word for 
anyone in that house.
And my mother is riddled with self-doubt,
often convinced that others
believe her to be a terrible person.

I’m sure there are more factors at play than just this one. Basic personality traits between these two good women
are markedly different in several ways.

However, I remain convinced that ‘just this one’
marks out one of the most basic ways
in which our two moms have faced
into their long, last journey in life.

I believe that a father’s unconditional love is foundational
for each one of us.
But for female children?
It is critical and crucial.
It can sometimes make the difference between
humble self-acceptance and crippling self-doubt.
I also believe that the formation of the female spirit is
critically important for the healthy development of
family, culture, church.

In other words, it’s a big deal for girls/women to have a loving father (or father figure) somewhere in their story.

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Working through some puzzles with our eldest daughter, one of several in our family tree who have inherited his mathematical and logical gifts. I am not one of those.

My own dad adored me.
And I knew it.

All my life, I have been deeply grateful for that truth.

I’ve got insecurities by the bushel basketful,
that is true enough.

But I have never doubted my father’s
deep and abiding love for me.

Not once.

And I believe that sweet piece of my story says a whole lot about who I am today.

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Mom and dad in the 80s.

My father was a school teacher and a musician,
a handyman and a thoughtful, interesting person.

He liked butter on white bread, Buicks,
and playing the piano.

He was quiet, wise, gentle and good.
And he had an absolutely killer sense of humor,
a dry wit that would pop out from time to time,
most likely very soon after you’d decided that he 
wasn’t even really listening to the conversation.

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My beautiful, fun mama.

He was crazy-nuts about my mother,
and they made quite a pair,

she all bubbles and up-front laughter,
he behind-the-scenes deep and sometimes mysterious.

My father’s hands were big enough to span an octave,
plus 2 or 3,

and strong enough to hold a crying baby,
bringing calm and quiet more efficiently than
anyone else I knew.
He loved being a grandfather
and his grandkids idolized him in so many ways.

 

IMG_0224Me, in the 80s – a combo of the two of them, don’t you think?

He gave his testimony in church once,
speaking honestly about his own wrestling spirit,

and eloquently about the truth that his faith was his life.
And if it wasn’t his life –
if it wasn’t changing the way he lived that life –

then it wasn’t worth much, was it?

Dad believed that a Jesus-follower should be steady,
sturdy,

         devoted and
                           careful. 

And more than once,
he gently but firmly reminded me to 

live that way, too.

 

I love you, Daddy.
I miss you every day and,
as you know –
I talk to you with some regularity!
You’ve been gone from this place for
almost a decade now,
and though I’m grateful that your struggles
with health and frailty are behind you,
I wish you –
the healthy, happy you –
were still here with us.

I miss your advice,
your kindness,
your steadiness
and your unshakeable loyalty.
The older I get, the more I realize
how rare those qualities are,
and the more I miss your being here to model them for us.

I’ll love you forever, Dad.
And I thank God for your love every day that I breathe.

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Comments

  1. I love this piece and knowing that you had a dad who adored you.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    ps. I am hoping that since you are writing today, that you are feeling a little better?

  2. I am feeling better, Glenda. Slowly tapering off these meds, I hope. And trying to get used to being COMPLETELY dependent on someone else for many of my most basic needs. Quite humbling. Thanks for reading, my friend.

  3. I strongly believe in the importance of a father’s love and influence, too. Your homage to your father is beautiful. And, I love that 80′s photo of you!

  4. Lovely tribute, Diana. And very true words about the impact that Dad’s (and Mom’s) have on their kids.

  5. This is so lovely, Diana. So much truth here, too. For some reason, this Father’s Day was particularly hard on me. For most of my life, I’ve accepted and understood and forgiven my father’s distance and dysfunction. It’s odd that after all these years, I’m sensing the loss of what I never had now more than ever. If there is anything I’ve pressed Louis about consistently, it’s been that he makes sure that our daughter knows how much he loves and adores her. I think about and pray for you every day, my dear friend.

    • I’m sorry it was a hard day, Patricia. I don’t think it ever gets easier when we carry sad and broken relationships around with us. Fortunately, God is in the business of redeeming those pieces of our story and that makes all the difference. Thanks so much for you prayers, your encouragement and your kind words.

  6. Sandy Hay says:

    I watch my son with his three daughters and thank God for Matt’s love that he pours out to them. They definitely know their Daddy loves each of them. Oh, he can be quite firm, especially with the youngest ;) but they all melt his heart . I was not so blessed. My dad had PTSD from WWII and has he aged he withdrew and distanced himself more and more. It took until I was about 45 to understand that only God could change Dad’s thinking patterns . No matter what I saw or didn’t see I learned to trust that God would be the LOVE we both needed. Thank you Diana. And I too am praying for. Dependence isn’t my strong suit either ;)

    • I love watching our son love his girls, too. He’s the only one of our children to have daughters – and I, too, love watching him love them so very well. Thanks for your prayers – they make a difference, Sandy.

  7. Diana – I think you are right about dads. They do influence us in remarkable ways for our whole lives. I was with my dad on Saturday, and while my husband and my dad’s wife sat and listened, my dad and I had one of our conversations that have become so special to me – we meander through the big issues of the world and try to solve all the problems. During those conversations, it becomes so clear to me that much of my thinking is influenced by him.

    This was a beautiful tribute to both of your parents. Thank you for this glimpse.

    • Yes – love those free-flowing conversations! My dad was very quiet, almost taciturn, but when he did enter a conversation, it was always rich and interesting. His last illness made that almost possible – and that was what I missed the most. After the piano-playing, of course. That was the saddest of the pieces that disappeared with Parkinson’s.

  8. Thanks for sharing this glimpse of your dad with us. He sounds like a wonderful person. You made such an interesting observation about the way your mother’s and mother-in-law’s relationships with their dads influenced their confidence throughout their lives. My grandmothers were a little like that. One loved to recall her father and always called him “Daddy” with such affection. She was confident and vivid and joyful. My other grandma seemed much more worried. I know next to nothing about her dad.

    • I do think we often see the elderly revisiting their childhood experiences as they fade away – and that has been such a hard thing to see in my own mom. Interesting that you noticed some similar contrasts between your grandmothers.

  9. Loved this Diana – and completely agree with your understanding of fathers and daughters – beautifully, clearly told. I too owned my dad’s full approval – and it has carried me throughout my life. Thank you – and wishing you well in your recovery!

    • That fatherly love is so valuable, so needed. And I’m glad (but not surprised) to learn that you experienced that as well. Thanks for your encouraging words and wishes for my recovery.

  10. “I wish you –
    the healthy, happy you –
    were still here with us.”
    yes, this is how I feel. Relief his suffering is over. I was never going to have the healthy dad I knew, but i do miss him. I had such a connection with him. The interesting thing is that I also am missing my mom in a new way. We had a “good” relationship as mother/daughters go, but not that same emotional connection my dad and i had.

    been praying for you since last thursday and your surgery and all that it entails. Hugs to you.

    • I know you get this part, Carol. And I thank you for your prayers for me over this last, crazy week. Slowly coming off pain meds and hoping to re-enter my life with all my senses acute once again. :>)

  11. Diana, this pulled loose something in me that was beginning to unravel. It’s funny how you can see things from one angle and think you understand, but then another angle (to the pain or hurt) appears and you find yourself mourning anew. Thank you for your insights.

    • You are welcome, Kelly. I’m sorry for whatever pain this piece engendered in you, however. We do need to see that pain, to name it and to walk through it, though – so if this piece helps you to do that, then I am grateful.

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