A friend was recently telling me how hard it is to talk to her dad.  Like me, she’s 50 ish and she relates that her father was always…not there.  She recalls when chosen to be on the cheer squad in high school rushing home to tell her parents and her dad said, “You think that makes you special or something?”   She relates that when she married and they had their first fight, she made the mistake of crying to her parents and her dad said, “I don’t know why he married you in the first place.”  She remembers when her mother passed that her heart was broken and she turned to her dad for solace, he said, “Crying won’t change a thing”, and to this day remains distant toward her.  She says, “I never felt like he really claimed me as his daughter.”

My heart bleeds for her pain.

My Daddy is a retired military man so there was always travel, always moving, always distance.  Some of my earliest memories are of the smell of his aftershave, the crispness of his uniform, and driving him to the edge of town where he’d hitch a ride to his duty station (think 60’s).  He always had silly stories to tell, would sing crazy songs, and tease us every which way he could to get a belly laugh from us.  When home, he cooked and the smell of pot roast or scrambled eggs and sausage sent us in dizzy delights.  My parents divorced, and though I didn’t have the day to day time with him, I have two boxes full of letters as testament to his love for us.  A younger me didn’t understand what was written between the lines.  The older me reads those letters and aches with pain for the younger dad.  There was never a doubt that we were loved.  Never a doubt that he was there…and that I was, indeed, loved.

In 1982 as a married young woman, Mike and I lived near the same city as my dad, his wife and two children.  At that time, I had not lived near my dad or had much contact with him in over ten years.  It was a terrible time financially for Mike and I, but I wanted to be near my dad so we moved to Huntsville.  We were so very poor and lived in a roach-infested apartment.  We had a an outdoor picnic table for furniture.  Life was hard.  On Valentine’s day he dropped by on his way home from work and walked in with a vase of three roses and sat them on my counter.  We talked a few minutes and as he left I reminded him that he’d left his wife’s flowers on the counter.  He looked at me, smiled and said, “Those are for my darling daughter.” 

I cherish those words to this day.  I still have the vase!  Those words were claiming words!  Just as God claims us, my Daddy claimed me with those words!   With those words, the past was the past, and a fresh day had begun. 

My dad had a triple bypass this  year.  It was harrowing to get an emergency call while at a conference in California, work my way back to Phoenix on stand-by, and then fly back praying he would be alive for me to see him.  He’s there…we’re here…but love knows no distance.  How blessed I am that he  not only got through that rough spot, but has recovered wonderfully. 

Our relationship is email after email of updates, jokes and tidbits of information.  I treasure each one.  I have come to rely on my Daddy’s wisdom, wit, and easy-going, laid-back approach to whatever is happening more and more through the years.  I love that he doesn’t judge, but he does support, encourage, give advice when asked, and turns my thoughts to the Lord.  Every email proclaims that I am his daughter.  Every email says I love you.  I never thought I would have what I have with my Daddy, but I am thankful that I do and I can’t imagine being without it.  

I am doubly blessed in that with both my Daddy and my Bob I have experienced two incredible father-daughter relationships.  Because of this, I believe, I have tremendous faith that continues to grow as I continue to grow my relationship with my Lord.  

Fathers, Dads, love your children and accept them for who they are.  Don’t let the circumstances of life keep you from letting your little boys and girls, and big boys and girls, know that you claim them as dear, that you cherish them for who they are, yours.  So many things don’t matter but somehow we have a way of making them a matter of contention, hurt and pain.  We use them as walls that stand between what the relationship should be and could be if we’d just reach over and pull the other one close.  Love heals.  Love shouts “YOU ARE MINE!” and there’s nothing that can change that. 

Thank you, my Daddy, for who you are and what you are in my life.   Thank you for your unconditional love.  Thank you for our most precious relationship that I value more than I could ever say.   Thank you for your love of butterbeans and cornbread that can turn a sour day into something mighty sweet after all!

Merry Christmas.  I love you.

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