Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Belated Father's Day Post

Here is a copy of something that I wrote on Father's Day.

Today is Father's Day. There are five significant fathers in my life who I would like to celebrate today. They shaped my life and my family.

The first is my grandfather, who we called Bigdaddy. I didn't know him as a father, but he was the best grandfather a kid could have. He had a rough, gravely, but tender voice. I remember nights at Cabin 77 when we would all sit on the screened-in porch and Bigdaddy would sing old country songs. He would also talk to the bullfrogs and to the doves. He taught me to fish. He never showed favorites between his two grandchildren - me and my brother. He told the best stories! I realized by the time I was a teenager that there was no way he could have been a cowboy AND an Indian AND a gladiator. He was also a wonderful great-grandfather to Princess. He adored her. I have a priceless photo of the two of them. They are sitting in two large comfy chairs. She is lining up all of her Hot Wheels cars on the arm of her chair. I remember that she was describing each of the cars as she "parked" them. He was captivated. That year for Christmas he bought her Hot Wheels cars.

Bigdaddy was on the front lines in World War II. He served in the 36th Infantry Division and proudly wore the Texas T-Patch. It is hard for me to watch "Saving Private Ryan" because some of the battles depicted mirror very closely some of the experiences I know he went through.

Bigdaddy was an honorable man. He was worthy of respect. I miss him.

Next is my dad. Now that I'm an adult, when I look back on my life and our circumstances I realize how difficult it must have been for him. He had two loves - his family and theatre. It's hard to maintain both of those, but he did. He was the director of a community theatre when my brother was born. When that job ended, he became a theatre professor. He taught during the day and then rehearsed productions at night. But I don't ever remember a time when we didn't have dinner together. His rehearsals usually didn't start until about 7:00 so we would have dinner and once a week we would have a family game night. Sometimes when he would have a rehearsal on a weekend he would bring me and my brother to the auditorium to play. We knew that place like the backs of our hands.

Dad was off during the summers and that was great! Every weekend we'd go to Bigdaddy's cabin at the lake. Dad taught me to water ski. He didn't teach me to fish, but I do remember lots of mornings and afternoons with him fishing off of our dock.

The most important thing that Dad taught me was the meaning of unconditional love. We never really talked at length about it, but I just always knew that there was nothing I could do to make him stop loving me. Oh, he got mad at me! But I never thought that he didn't love me. (I may have said that, just to be pouty, but I never believed it.) In that way he did an excellent job of mirroring God's love for me. And that's one of the most important jobs a parent has.

Another dad to whom I owe a debt of gratitude is Hubby's father. Tony. I never got to meet him. He died just after Hubby and I started dating. Tony was planning a trip to Austin to visit Hubby and to meet me in May of 1995. He died on the treadmill at his gym in March of that year. Everyone who knew Tony loved him. At family gatherings his presence is still missed. I hear stories about him all the time and every story is bathed in love, humor and warmth. From pictures I see that his smile lives in Hubby's smile. Obviously he is important to my husband's family, but he is important to me, too because he did a wonderful job of teaching Hubby how to be a father.

Herman, my brother, is the only father in this list who has step-kids. Herman and his wife have a wonderful story. They were high school sweethearts. When my brother went away to college they decided that they didn't want a long distance relationship and broke up. I know for a fact that Herman never stopped loving her. She married and had two kids and then the marriage ended. About a year after her divorce was final, she came to Austin to visit some friends and looked Herman up. I think she just wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings (she married one of his close friends from high school). They went out to dinner and the rest is history. Kind of.

When they started to get serious, Herman stepped back a bit because he knew that she came with kids. My brother is not impetuous at all. He's spontaneous, but not impetuous. He knew that he loved her, but he wanted to make sure that he could love the kids as a father should. He weighed the pros and cons. Because the ex-husband was / is a non-presence in the kids' lives Herman knew that HE (Herman) would more than likely be the only dad that these kids ever knew. He wanted to make sure that he could be that man. He did not take that responsibility lightly. NOW the rest is history. He stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. He is amazing. And now they have a child together and he's all the more amazing for making a blended family work. My sis-in-law said that last week her son called from his grandparents house (where he's been visiting for about a week) and immediately asked for Herman!

Now for the topper. My husband. He was born to be a dad. Our "let's talk about having kids" conversation went like this:

Me: Well, we've been married a couple of years now, do you think we need to talk about when we want to have kids?
Hubby: I'm ready!(That was in 1998. Princess was born in 2000 - after only two tries - so you can guess whose feet were dragging!)

He has been the sole provider of income since I got pregnant. We decided as a couple that I would stay home with the kids. Sometimes it's hard, but he's never complained and he's never asked me to go back to work. He wants (as much as I do) for the kids to be brought up by US and not a day care worker. (But we are both VERY pro-Mother's Day Out!)

He was right there during labor and delivery of both kids making sure that I got whatever I wanted or needed. And when I damaged a nerve in my left leg during Princess' delivery and couldn't stand or walk without crutches for a week, he changed every diaper and brought Princess to me for every feeding - day or night.

He prays for and with the kids. The kids see and hear him pray about everything - big and little. They see him serve at church, they see him serve at home. And they see him do it joyously.

They also see him treat me with respect. He thanks me for dinner. He helps around the house. He gets me flowers for my birthday and our anniversary. He compliments me in front of them. They see that he values me as a woman and as a mom.

I am so aware that we shape our kids' future relationships. I know that Hubby is doing a great job of that. I pray that Princess will go out only with men who treat her the way her daddy treats her - like the precious gift that she is. And I pray that Buddy will find a woman who will allow him to be the husband and the father that Hubby is teaching him to be.

Happy Father's Day to the best of the best!

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