When I was a little girl, I fell asleep in the middle of a rock concert at a summer festival. I share this memory, because it is one of my favorite memories … because I was with my dad. It was too hot, too stuffy, too loud and too chaotic to be comfortable, but comfortable I was – enough so to remember smiling as I fell asleep, snuggled against his lap. In retrospect, it must have been dreadfully uncomfortable to have the extra body heat, weight and pressure on sticky, summer, bleacher seats … but he never complained. He held onto me, as I held on – tighter.
Throughout my life, there were many times I brought problems to the feet of my daddy, asking him with salty tears to fix. From insignificant broken toys to life-altering broken promises, there was never ground he wasn’t willing to walk with me, and there was no greater safety for me than to curl beside him and be every bit of myself without fear. My daddy believes in imagination, in Neverland and the power of pretend. He believes in stories, and strong characters who determine their own ever-afters. Growing up, he was always on my side … he still is – and that has made all the difference. Dad isn’t perfect; he never claimed he was, and that’s what has made him so.
Our song is “Lullaby,” and on my wedding day, dressed in white tule and tears, he held onto me, as I held on – tighter. And the words of Billy Joel echoed true to my dependence on him.
“Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes
and save these questions for another day
I think I know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you, and you should always know
no matter where you go
I never will be far away.”
My daddy promised he would never leave me until I was ready. I am thirty-two, and there are days when I need only him. I need his voice. I need his approval. I need to be that little girl in chaos comforted by only him.
He is my first hero.
My second hero happens to be attached to the hand my father placed in mine on my wedding day. My husband. I think that I am in love with him as much for who he is, as who he’s allowed me to be with him. There are very precious few people in this world who bring you into yourself … who not only accept you, but turn a light on inside of you that never would have existed if they hadn’t found it.
He is better than enough. He is more. My husband found my glow, and for the last eleven years has captured it beautifully. Like fireflies in a jar, he shows it to me when I lose my way, so that even on my darkest days, I am never really lost. He has given me an identity more precious than anything I could ever accomplish in this life alone. He has made me a mother … love multiplied in the smiles we count as treasure. He is selfless, and brave, and as we continue to grow up together, I pray to grow into the kind of woman who might someday deserve him.
And finally, my second hero would not be here without my third – my father-in-law. There is no way to adequately honor the man who taught my husband how to be a dad. It took me some time to realize just how extraordinary this ordinary man truly is. He speaks in actions, not in words … and for a writer, this wasn’t always easy to interpret. But an act of kindness, an encouraging smile and a man who makes time for everyone but himself cannot be overlooked forever. My father-in-law takes care. He courageously faces the trials life puts in his way without excuse or retreat. All my husband has learned of a tenacious heart comes from his parents, and his father’s good opinion. And all he ever really needed … all he still needs, is to know he brings his father pride. “Forever My Father” by Go Radio reminded me of this.
“And I just needed you to pick me up
Like you did when we were younger
When the lightning and the thunder
Had me clinging to your heart.”
I wish every child could have a father like these three heroes of mine. For in them, I have seen the love of God reflected. I pray my son looks up … for he has much, in these three men, to set his gaze upon.
Happy Father’s Day.