Happy Father’s Day, Dad (jumping in the deep end)

Father's Day

When I was 3-years-old, my dad threw me into the lake and yelled, “Kick, kick, kick!”  My mom was not pleased (to say the least) as he scooped me out of the water.  He did this to teach me how to swim, to not be scared, and to learn what to do should I find myself in the water again.

When I was five-years-old, my dad pushed me off and ran behind me as I learned to ride my bike without training wheels.  “Peddle!”, he yelled as I excitedly conquered riding on two wheels.

When I was 9-years-old, my dad looked up at me on the diving board of the deep end  and yelled, “You can do it!” as I did a gainer off of the board.

When I was 11-years-old, my dad held my hand as he told me I would never have children.

Waking up from my hysterectomy, in a daze, I saw him and the doctor standing over me.  The courage and strength he must have carried just to mutter those words overwhelms me.  It breaks my heart and fills it with pride all at the same time.  Actually, I do not recall one time waking up in the hospital without him present.  Even as an adult, if I have a serious medical issue come up, he is there.  He has always been there.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend in the US, the times my dad has told me to “jump” or held my hand when I needed it the most, have flooded my mind.  My dad is not perfect.  He was not as a young father and he is not as a grandfather but he is always there and always giving his two-cents-worth (or more).

I can come up with a thousand words to describe my dad but that would make way too long of a blog post and I’m sure you would get bored with it.  I’ll just say this.  My dad is loyal.  He is opinionated (even when you don’t want to hear it).  He has a soft heart (even if he doesn’t want others to know it).  He is exactly the kind of Earthly dad that I need (even if that irked me as a teenager).

Throughout my life, I have had this notion; this juxtaposition that I need to be careful and brave all at the same time.  I have carried this feeling that life is precious but also worth taking a risk.  I learned this from my parents – especially my dad.

When it has come to making decisions that might elate and break my heart at the same time, I have always tended to go for it, despite the risk.  When it comes to expressing my opinion even if it means being misunderstood or ignored, I have usually leaned towards just stating it.  A big part of this is the faith I have in God; my Heavenly Father, Keeper of my Secrets, Whisperer of my dreams.  Another part, of course, is my Earthly Father; my dad.

As I get older and watch my parents get older, I have come to recognize the full measure of what it is to have a dad (and a mom) who are still active in parenting.  They give me advice.  They help around my house.  They celebrate special events.  They cry when I cry.  They laugh when I laugh.  They worry…just like I suspect I will when my children are adults.  I know our days are numbered.  I know that one day, I will wake up without my parents to call or cry to or just be there.  It is becoming more real as we all traverse this crazy thing called life.  I do not know how many Father’s Days I will have with my dad but I do know that each and every one is special and that I appreciate him more and more as time passes by.

Looking back on life, he has always been there.  When we fostered, he was immediately at my door step the minute we accepted our children into our home.  As a grandparent through adoption, he has never wavered in his love for my kids.  Not once.  Not for a second.  Never.

Back in 1983 when my dad held my hand and whispered truth and encouragement into my ears, I would have never guessed that we would be where we are today…three kids…three lives touched by adoption…three lives influenced by my dad…hearts that were once filled with grief, now at peace.

On this Father’s Day, to my dad, I want to say, “Thank You”.  Thank you for throwing me in the lake at 3-years-old.  Thank you for pushing me off on my bike ride at 5-years-old.  Thank you for yelling “You can do it!” when I was 9-years-old.  Thank you for digging through your own grief and finding the wisdom to tell me at 11-years-old that I would never have biological children.

As an adult, when considering choices in front of me, I usually go with the attitude of “go for it”.  I know this came from my dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Thank you for encouraging me to always jump into the deep end.  

Father-in-Waiting

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  It is the weekend you dread, isn’t it?  “Happy Father’s Day!” you hear people say to the men around you, but you sit there silent, nodding, and agreeing that, indeed, it should be a happy Father’s day to the men you know. Or, it could be, that it doesn’t matter if it is Father’s Day weekend or not.

It could be that you still continue to count the days until you are  a daddy.  It could be that you have been to the doctor over and over again with your wife, only to walk out feeling empty.  It might just be that you have watched your wife sob the heaviest tears that you could not even carry, even though you have tried.

You are strong.  You are trying to carry the weight of this burden, and yet, you do not fully understand it.

You are a Father-in-Waiting.

It just might be that you have explored all of the avenues that would lead you to becoming a parent.  You and your wife have been to multiple doctors, invested more money than you want to mention, and have given more emotional energy than you ever thought you could extend. You barely mention it to your friends.

Your co-workers wonder why you are not a daddy yet, and as a defense mechanism, you laugh it off.  You make excuses for it. You joke about how you want to stay “Honeymooners forever”, or you speak about being perfectly happy without children.  The truth is, though, while you are happy, you still are lost in the confusion about parenthood. You wake-up each day with the desire to see your wife happy.  You think, “Maybe soon….maybe one day…”

Your wife comes home from work announcing another’s pregnancy.  You get the mail, open it, and see a birth announcement.  You attend family reunions and are bombarded with questions about when little ones will be bouncing their way into your life.

Still yet, there you are.  You are working so hard to heal your wife’s heart.  You get angry.  You hold it all in, but you would do anything…anything…to take away her pain.  Deep down, you are carrying your own pain, anger and sadness.  You long to be a daddy.

You are a Father-in-Waiting.

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  These things are what you wife needs:

  • your attention to her words about the despair she is feeling,
  • your arms to comfort her when nothing else will,
  • your assurance that when you said “I do”, it truly was forever…through sickness, through health…through barrenness…through it all,
  • your compassion, understanding, and empathy,
  • your patience…your wife is exploring her own uncharted territory of infertility…just like you,
  • your affirmation that she is still the most beautiful person you have ever met, that her worth is so much more than bringing babies into this world, and that you will always be honored to be her husband,
  • and lastly, your hope.  Keep it up.  Keep speaking about your future with children in mind.  Even when she loses it, you keep it going.

Parenthood may not come like you want it to.  It may visit you through multiple treatments that finally succeed.  It may settle itself through the selflessness of your surrogate, or even, to the surprise of no type of intervention. Or, it may come to you through the incredible, unbelievable, awe-inspiring, life-affirming, and glorious blessing of adoption.

No matter how fatherhood comes to you, it is still the most incredible gift.  Celebrate it.  Cherish it.  Do not stay caught up in the facts of the struggle to be a daddy.  Instead, stay engaged in the miracle of fatherhood.

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  Happy Father’s Day.  Happy moment when your wife walks out of the bathroom holding the test that finally comes true.  Happy time when the doctor explains that everything is looking good, and there is not anything to worry about .  Happy moment when you see the ultrasound, you hear the heartbeat, and you start to imagine yourself as a daddy.  Happy time when her water breaks, you rush to the hospital, and you hold a part of your heart for the first time.

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  Happy moment when you receive the call that you have been selected by a birth mother.  Happy time when you first meet her, talk about your child’s future, and hug her for the first time.  Happy time when you watch your wife meet the birth mother of her future child.  Happy breath-taking time when you rush to the hospital, hold both your wife’s hand, and the hand of the birth mother.  Happy incredible instant when you lift up the gift of life that has been given to you.

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  Happy time when you signed on the dotted line that confirms you are a foster daddy.  Happy, yet painful moment, when the little one arrives on your doorstep, you hear about the plight of the little one and birth parents that have entered your life, and you sway whatever way the “case” is swaying. Happy occasion when you enter in the courtroom, get acknowledged by the Judge, and learn of the future of the babe in your care.  Happy incredible, breath-taking, exhilarating, yet humbling day you learn that biological parent rights are terminated. Happy second that the gavel falls declaring you as a forever daddy.

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  Stay true.  Stay strong.  Stay the husband you swore to be.  Hold your wife.  Listen to her, and allow yourself to speak about your own journey.

Psst…Father-in-Waiting….yes, you.  

Happy day when you will no longer be a Father-in-Waiting.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

*Author’s Note:  Sunday, June 15th is Father’s Day in the United States.  I wrote this to be an encouragement for all of the Father’s-in-Waiting.

 

Dad’s Heart-Papa’s Love

I have a great father who has turned out to be a wonderful Papa to my children. My dad is really just a big kid in a lot of ways. He works hard, but also plays hard.  During my childhood, dad was a professional fisherman and in the vending machine business.  He was often gone before I even got out of bed each morning; however, rarely was Dad gone for Mom’s comforting dinners. Afterward, we would sit and eat ice cream or popcorn and watch T.V. together. I used to love to sit on his lap and imitate the goofy commercials that often played in the 70’s.

It was a special treat for me to go with him on his vending machine runs. Sitting in the section between the front seats of his white van, we would blast rock music and sing loudly with the windows open.  Most of the time, he would just make up the words to the songs he did not know. His versions always seemed to be a little less poetic but way funnier than the original lyrics.

The kids in my neighborhood also loved my Dad. He would play “shark” in the neighborhood swimming pool with them. I would hear “Beached Whale!” being yelled out and knew to take cover because of Dad’s antics with the diving board. He taught me how to swim at a fairly young age during our many weekends boating, fishing, and swimming at the lake.

Being able to swim was always very important for him as his father drown when I was only nine months old. When I was pretty young, Dad threw me over the boat into the lake, yelled “kick, kick, kick”, and then scooped me out of the water to the relief of my anxious, and angry, mother. His lack of fear spilled over to me, making me bold enough to try just about anything he came up with.

My dad is not perfect. He can be stubborn and quick to give his opinion. I’m sure like most of us; he has said a few things that he regrets. However, I’ve witnessed how incredibly loyal he really is. Even if his heart is broken over situations, he does not stop caring for his family.

When I was sick in the hospital, he fretted over my situation. He worried like any father would about his daughter’s fight for life. He was ever-present for the three plus weeks I laid there struggling to live. He watched and waited for me to start showing signs of recovery. The entire time he would whisper to me “You’re a little trooper Caroline” as if to encourage me to continue fighting the war that was taking place within me.

Perhaps, he saw a bit of himself in my fight for survival. While in Vietnam, he survived two close brushes with death. The first time, during a monsoon, Dad contracted dysentery. The deathly high body temperature that accompanies dysentery took the life of one of his good buddies while they waited for rescue. There he was, 19 years old, with his whole life ahead of him, slowing wasting away due to high fever, and all he could do was lay there and wait…wait…to be rescued and for any sign that things were going to be okay.

The second time during the TET offensive, an armory of weapons near Dad’s bunker exploded. He was rendered unconscious and had shrapnel buried deep within his knee. Because of all the chaos that ensued while quickly trying to pull the living out of the jungle, Dad was actually considered MIA for several weeks until being identified in a military hospital during his recovery.

One of dad’s memories from the war is that of spending Thanksgiving in a “hole”. Barrels of strawberries were dropped onto the muddy ground around him. Even though he and about ten other soldiers were being shot at, Dad bravely belly-crawled to the berries, scooped some in his hands, and then crawled back to the hole that had become his safe harbor from the gritty, life-taking atrocities surrounding him. I wish now that I could have whispered in his ear “You’re a trooper Dad” while he huddled in a hole in the jungle of a war-ravaged foreign land far away from the love and safety of his home and family.

Dad has always been a little outwardly stoic about my surgery and even his time in war. But, I’m sure he has cried more than I will ever know about his own battle and the illness that I battled during my youth. He watched his baby girl go from being a healthy muscular dancer to skin and bones. On top of that, he was put in the position of raising a daughter who would never have biological children. Throughout my growing years, his support never wavered. He was quick to give his opinion if he disagreed with my choices, but after-all, that is what dads are supposed to do. He made sure I had the opportunities to explore my talents, interests, and goals in life.

Okay…now flash forward many years to the year 2006. Dad rushed to my home as quickly as he could to see for the first time the precious baby boy placed in our home as a foster placement. I remember telling Dad “We are just fostering him. We may not be able to adopt him” multiple times so that it would sink in. I think Dad nearly fell in love the minute he looked at him.

Throughout our time fostering my son, Dad grew closer and closer to him. My son kindly referred to him as “Papa”. The two quickly became best buddies. The entire time my Dad knew that he may not be able to hold his “grandson” for life so he wanted to make the time he had with him special. Fostering was difficult on us but at least we understood what was going on with the legal case. Dad did not and could not know due to confidentiality. I am sure he worried about losing the grandson that he had fallen in love with. When the case moved to adoption, Dad was elated. His future fishing buddy would not be going anywhere and he would be able to finally officially introduce him as his grandson.

Dad was also very eager to hold our daughter when she was placed in our home. Her foster care case quickly turned into an adoption, but still Dad had to wait for her to “officially” become his granddaughter. She too loves her Papa. She gets so excited when he arrives at our house, runs to him yelling “Papa!”, and jumps in his arms.

I’ve said it before, but it is worth saying over and over. I love the fact that my children were predestined to be in our family. My Dad was predestined to be their Papa. He loves them, encourages them, and is a big kid when they are around. Dad may be a little heavier than he was in his early years. His sparse hair is grayer than it used to be. He doesn’t get up as quickly as he did before. He still may be a little stubborn at times, but, one thing that hasn’t changed is his heart and his love.

He continues to be the Dad I remember growing up who softly held my hand during times of illness. He is the fun-loving, giggle-making, and toy-buying Papa to my kids that they so deserve to have. He is fiercely protective of them and whole-heartedly in love with them. My Dad’s heart is reflective of a Papa’s love.

Exodus 20:12
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”