{when you miss your dad}

I was a little girl who looked at her daddy with all adoring doe-eyes. He loved me well, took me under his wing when the father the world had assigned to me threw me away… he could do no wrong in my eyes.  I would stand on the top of his cowboy boots and straining my neck to look straight up into his eyes we would dance around.  He could set up a tent in the dark of night by only the lights of our pick up truck.  He could embarrass my mom as we made our way through 3D (remember that store?) in ways unimaginable to most families. We laughed. A LOT.

Once, we were on our way to family church camp, and the hood flew up on the bus completing obstructing the windshield. Everyone on that bus remembers with laughter how he stuck his head out the window and calmly guided us to the side of the road, hopped out, tied the hood down with a rope, and then got back in- all without breaking a sweat.

That is the super-hero daddy that I knew.

Looking back, I know that he didn’t get it all right. Looking farther back into his past I know that he flat out got some things very wrong.  But my memories are so full of joy, that my heart cannot rest on the mistakes for very long.

I am not one to get caught up much on dates on the calendar. Since he passed away, I note the date that marks the anniversary of his death, and of course his birthday… but generally I have said that I miss him no more or less on those days than any of the other days of the year. Father’s Day comes and goes year after year with very few “woes” to me and my daddy’s girl heart because I’m busy celebrating the amazing dads still here in my life- my husband, step-dad, father-in-law and countless others.

No, it’s seldom a holiday or anniversary that causes that dull ache in my heart to split open into a sharp pain. But that doesn't mean I don't have them... it's just that, for me, they creep up at the most unexpected times.

It’s passing an amazing bunch of wildflowers on the road and thinking “Dad so would have stopped to get a bouquet of THOSE for mom”. A thought that I haven’t had for years, but seeing these giant purple blossoms brought that pang of remembrance and longing. Telling Zachary stories of many a wasted hour picking “weeds” we saw as flowers with my dad, more often than not while we were on our way somewhere and already running late. Pulling over with Zach to grab a picture (my version of a bouquet)… and thinking how much my little man would have loved my dad. How much Papaw Joe would have loved this kid and his quick wit. How loudly he would have cheered at football games. The shirts he would have made that said "Tali & Zach's Grandpa"... he was just that kind of guy.

It’s sitting on concrete benches at the Bicknell ball park as Jim coaches our son, remembering sitting on those very benches as dad coached the little “Mets” ball team (they were just as uncomfortable as a ten year old girl as they are now).  Watching him out on the ball field in his coach’s shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots cheering on the little guys on his team with everything he had and arguing unfair calls even more energetically. 

could I have sat any closer to him?
It's glancing over my shoulder from that concrete bench and pointing out my childhood home to the friend sitting with me. A little gray house on a corner, close enough to the ball park that we could enjoy rocket pops and fun dip all.summer.long.  I think about playing Frisbee in the field across the street. Learning to ride my bike in the road right behind me. The swing that sat outside that house and played such a prominent role in our happiest summer nights. Fireworks set off on the Fourth of July.  And this feeling creeping in that it’s not really fair that he was never able to see a single one of Z’s games, or Tali’s dance recitals. Oh the bouquet of flowers he would have brought her! I imagine a few weeds stuck in for good measure…

It’s walking through a thrift store and catching sight of a wagon-wheel clad couch… you know the ones, brown and cream and orange with dark wood trim in all of their early 80’s glory. It’s remembering sitting with your hero on just such a couch as the record player crooned the words to “Rose Colored Glasses”, your daddy singing along in that out-of-tune way he had about belting out his favorite songs.

It’s driving down the road with my knee. Spinning donuts with Jim and the kids on an empty parking lot after a snowstorm.  Seeing the way my brother smiles, cocking his head to the side with a glint in his eye that must be genetic.

Or last night, as I photographed a bride in white dancing with her daddy. The way that they looked at one another- a daddy’s girl all grown up but still looking into the eyes of her hero.  And wishing I could have had that memory. Wishing that one last time, I could have kicked off my shoes and stood atop his cowboy boots and twirled around a dance floor. A princess, and the man who made her feel that way…

Most of the time, when I think of dad it is with a happy smile and joy in knowing I will see him again. But occasionally, it is like this feeling of longing and what-if and missing out.  I am learning, that’s okay. For years I have choked back these feelings of sadness. I have pushed them at arms length for fear that the feelings would actually overwhelm me, overtake me. But Jesus is teaching me that, even in this, He is my strong tower. And that the only way to march through the waves is to let them hit you. As my sweet friend, Lauren, reminded me this week... our Father is a good one who will lift us at just the right time, so that the waves don't overtake us.

Maybe you are missing someone like that too. Take heart, dear one. Take heart that our Heavenly Father understand our grief. He understands the pain of separation from the One He loves. And like any good Daddy, he holds us in these moments of grief. He weeps with us, and whispers gently words of comfort and love and understanding.

He doesn’t want us to stay in this place, but He does want us to be honest with Him about it. To ask Him why, tell Him we don’t understand, to lean our heads on his ever-strong chest and let Him catch each tear that falls. He wants us to trust Him when the waves feel strong... and at just the right time He will lift us... or even better, He will part the sea and let us walk through on dry land.

Would you let me pray for you?
Father, oh God... Abba... I thank you that you are a good God and a good Father. I thank you that you come right where we are, that you meet us even in grief and sadness. Lord, I pray for those who are hurting tonight, for those who, like me, are missing their daddies. I pray Lord that you would be near to the brokenhearted, as your Word promises. I pray that you would be near to this daddy's-girl-heart tonight. I am thankful to know that in Jesus, we have a Savior who knows exactly what we are feeling, that He also wept, and that it's okay to rest for a while in our feelings. To actually FEEL the things some of us have kept at arms length. I thank you God, that you are the lifter of our heads... would you keep our eyes focused on your goodness, your mercy, and your love. Would you remind us of the great hope we find in eternity, and the great reunions that will some day take place? Would you mend hearts tonight? Catch tears? Would you capture us up in your arms, and dance with us atop your ever strong, ever steady feet? I thank you, Father, that all that you are... you are for each and every one of us. In Your Son's beautiful Name I pray... AMEN.

For more on how our Daddy God holds you in your grief:  a daddy's love
To read more about my daddy, and how he loved me: tale of a father's love


Amanda D said...

Just....yes, and a grateful heart for the prayer <3

tammy said...

Really, really beautiful...
Thank you!