Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Legacy of a Father...From a Daughter

Right now it is just after one in the morning, making us officially an hour into Father's Day. And just a few hours ago, it had been officially been 6 weeks since my father, my daddy, left us and went to be with our Heavenly Father. 6 of the shortest, as well as longest, weeks of my life. To be honest, it's a lot to deal with sometimes, even now. And yet, as I sit here in this moment, I'm not overcome with tears and grief, but rather with peace; even more so, with a certain thankfulness in my heart that cannot be explained, and definitely cannot be removed.

I've been wondering for the last couple of weeks about this first Father's Day without my daddy - how it would feel, how I would do. And of course it will be different a bit I'm sure, as I go to bed, wake up, and actually start the day. But for now, I'm good, and I'm glad.

I had a minor breakdown in Target the other day, while looking through the Father's Day cards. My sister and I were picking them up and putting them down, reading the funny ones, and looking for the right one to give someone in our life who has been like a second father to us - both in our own daddy's living as well as his passing, and then I saw it - "Happy Father's Day Papa!" It was a card meant to be from grandchildren, and it recognized 'Papa' as being the nut who started the family tree. The wording of the card sounded so much like my daughters' own conversations, and the term for grandpa being the one they had landed on at some point years ago...that was all I took. I had to put the card down and walk away. So many thoughts and emotions, pain and loss, memories and the disappointment that there wouldn't be any more to be made - all these rolling through my heart and mind at once - but then came the quiet, "be still" command to my heart from my Father God, and the peace came rushing in.

With that peace came the importance of that card's message. "You're the nut that started us all!" Something to that effect, anyway. And it's true, my family has the imprint of my daddy on us, something that will never change. It shows in the men my brothers are growing up to be, it will show in how they raise their children, and also - and this is where I'm focusing on tonight - it shows in where my sister and I have our standards in regards to relationships.

When a son grows up, his relationship with his father is vital. The validation that helps him become a man can only come from a man. He learns how to be a leader, a husband, a provider, and so on. This is a relationship that is reflected on frequently, and I'm glad. However, it is not really a process or perspective I can really dwell on, and so I choose not to try.

What I can talk about, and what I have been meditating on, and what has calmed my heart so much this week leading up to Father's Day, is the relationship a daughter has with her father, with her daddy. For this, too, is essential to her future. At least it was to mine. After all, it was because of what I saw in my daddy that drew me to the man I married - the man who would eventually be the daddy of three little girls of his own.

My daddy was my HERO. I had him on a pedestal from day one to my memory, and probably before. Although there were disappointments here and there for silly, material things, he never let me down when it mattered most. I grew up knowing a father who would work to the bone to support his family, doing whatever job he needed to. He would be exhausted, and sometimes days off were few and far between, but he never said no to tickle fights, playing basketball with his klutzy, asthmatic daughter, or simply rocking in a recliner together before bedtime. I was so blessed to never know anything but love. Yes, there was often discipline {REALLY often in my case at times} involved, but in that correction I also felt love and protection. As I grew into my teenage years I had a very open relationship with my dad, because I trusted him, and he never took advantage of that to manipulate me into obedience. In those conversations there still came the correction, the discipline, and sometimes the expressions of disappointment, but again it was always brought around full circle to love, protection, and the encouragement not just that I could, but that I WOULD do better. In my relationship with my dad is where I learned a lot of confidence in who God was forming me to be, and the gift package He had designed uniquely for me. In my relationship with my daddy is where I learned how a man ought to be a father to his children. God's law/standard first, ruled gently but firmly, in love, and always as much fun as possible.

I grew up watching very closely my dad being a husband to my mom. As a child/preteen I would look for the 'signs of trouble' at times, as a lot of my friends' parents split up during those years. If there were ever any in my parents' relationship I never saw them. Again, very blessed I know, I honestly can't remember a time where my parents ever fought in front of us. Not that I was naive enough to think that they didn't argue - because let's face it, when "the look" is given followed by the FIRM shutting of a door and mildly raised voices all happens in a short amount of time, you know there is some discussing going on. :) But he was always kind in his words to her, never threatening, never mean or cruel, never degrading. I never once doubted my dad's love for my mom. She was his best friend, his wife, his partner for life.

In fact - and this was a lesson that I remember as plainly as it was yesterday, it was that impacting - one time my brother and I got caught in the act of 'pitting' one parent against the other, and boy did my daddy get upset at that one. I can still feel the emotion and uncertainty of waiting on the couch, ready for whatever consequences were to come, and my dad - my big, 6'4" father - coming into the family room. There were words, punishments, etc, and then he said something I'll never forget when the subject came round to going behind one parent to ask the other, and putting them in that position.

"I love you, and you're my kids, and nothing will ever change that. But one day, you'll grow up, move out, get married, and have families and lives of your own. Your mother and I, however, we're in this for life. She is my wife, my partner. After you're gone, she will still be here, doing life with me. Don't ever make me choose her over you like that again, because I can almost guarantee you, it's going to be her."

This rattled me to my core. Actually, at first I was kind of put out. But then, even though I was pretty young, I realized just how important this was - just how amazing a gift this was. The security imparted to me at that moment was indescribable, as was the picture of what a godly husband should be like. In my relationship with my father, I learned who I needed to marry - not necessarily the exact person, but the kind of man he would need to be.

I've heard it said over and over that girls wind up with guys that are just like their dad - usually in a negative context. For me, that was absolutely true. My daddy showed me not how to be a man, but what to look for in a man - more importantly, what to PRAY for. He showed me that a husband should be a best friend, married to his wife not his job, providing financially yes, but more importantly leading spiritually and making sure there is life and fun in the house as well. He showed me that a husband and a wife only work successfully when they are a team, with the husband leading and the wife being in agreement. He showed me that God needed to be the center focus of both of them in order for this team thing to be successful. My daddy showed me what a daddy should be, how he should teach his children right from wrong, correct them when necessary, and encourage them constantly. He showed me that a daddy can be a parent and a friend, as long as the latter relationship was secondary. All this and more, my daddy showed me not through numerous wise teachings - although we had many late night conversations that I will always treasure - but simply through his living this out. By being, he showed me how to be.

And so today, on Father's Day, I am missing my daddy terribly. Most of that aching, however, is in that I never told him thank you for teaching me all of this. Because if he hadn't, I wouldn't have married Andrew - my best friend, my partner, my leader, and an AMAZING daddy to our daughters. My dad said at our wedding reception that if it had been his choice of who I'd marry, it would have been Andrew. To me, that was the greatest form of encouragement and blessing on my marriage I could have ever received. Now almost 8 years later, I can see why he said that. Life isn't perfect, and neither are we. We have our ups and downs in dealing with things, and we are human. But this Father's Day I am at peace in many ways because I get to help my daughters celebrate the day with their daddy, who is a better man than he knows.

And this, is the legacy of a father, from his daughter's perspective. I pray that it encourages all who read it.

Until next time, I'll still be laughing,

 My daddy and me. 

 Highschool Graduation

 Father-Daughter Dance

 The toast. :)

 Our whole family, March this year.

My amazing husband and daughters, our little family. I am truly blessed. <3

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