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