For Dad: Things I Wish You Knew

9:38 AMHeather

Dear Dad,

The other day my neighbor needed my help with jumping her car battery.  I had to confess to her that I didn't know how to use the jumper cables.  And, it made me think of you.  

Because I know you took all that time to try to show me how to take care of a car before I got my driver's license.  And I know you tried to teach me to use those darn jumper cables.  But, as an arrogant teenager, I tuned you out.  Little did I know that I only had three years left with you.

Then, yesterday, my own middle schooler begged me to chaperone a field trip.  Where he proceeded to act as if he didn't know me.  Except when he needed money.  And I felt sad and hurt and cast aside.  Until I remembered.  How many times did I do this to you?  How many times did I beg you to drive me to a high school basketball or football game--some even up to two hours away? Where I then left you to sit alone while I joined my friends.  And I only acknowledged you to ask you for concession money.

Gulp.  Yesterday, I wished I could apologize for all those times.  I wished I could pick up the phone and say, "Hey.  I get it.  It's come full circle.  I see him growing and maturing and finding his way, and he's not sure where I fit in with his peers.  And I feel badly for his angst while also feeling badly for being left behind.  And, I'm so sorry for doing that to you."  We would have had a good chuckle about it, and I would have thanked you for your good nature toward me, no matter how indifferent I was toward you while finding my own way.  

There's so much now that I wish you knew.  I wish you knew that all those years you did the little things, they mattered.  None of us knew you'd be gone too soon.  But, you made the most of the time you had.  All the times you made us snow ice cream or took us to Dunkin' Donuts for my favorite jelly filled donuts when I was in preschool.  Or the games of Scrabble, over and over again, lying across the living room floor.  Or the way you made it a priority to come to my basketball games and cheer me on.  Even though I probably played a total of four minutes the whole game.  How you laughed and teased and joked with me, and indulged our silly little game of "frozen squirrel" when I was in kindergarten.  How you coaxed me through my fear of dogs, patiently.  Always so patient.

I wish I could tell you that I regret the millions of times I rolled my eyes because you just "Didn't get me!"  You never seemed to bat an eye.  You just kept on, loving me and laughing with me, as you always had.  I realize now how hard that must have been.  To show such grace when your children are pushing and pulling away to seek independence.

I wish I could tell you how thankful I am for the care and compassion you showed me.  How you'd hold my hand and rub my forehead and pray over me during my migraine spells when they first hit in eighth grade.  How you'd never leave my side until I was fast asleep, at long last.  Such tender care from the dad who gave me strength. 

I wish I could thank you for being in my business.  For the way you required any potential date to come and get to know you before they could ever consider taking me out.  How annoyed I was at the time.  So intrusive!  How thankful I am now for all the trouble and heartache you surely saved me from.  I wish I could say, "Thanks, dad, for listening to that police scanner every Friday night."  Not just as the police chaplain--but I knew it was also to keep an ear open for my safety.  I was immature to think it was about not trusting me.  Now, I realize it was about being a safety net as your baby girl found her wings.

I wish I could thank you for the way you served others.  Instead of being so mad that you missed something we'd planned.  How selfish and arrogant I was to be bent out of shape because you had to skip out on a family dinner.  Because, as a minister by that time, you needed to sit by the bedside of the sick and dying.  All I saw at the time was how I was left behind.  

All I see now is how you lived it out--to lose your life for others' sake.  To put serving others first, for the sake of Jesus.  And, how inspired and proud I am now for every time you came home in the wee hours of the morning after ministering to a transient to showed up at the local police station.

I wish I could have known you, adult to adult.  I wish I could have reached an age of maturity where I no longer thought you "had no idea" but I realized just how wise you were.  I wish we could have sat together and laughed about how I was the one without a clue every time I thought it was you.

I wish I could say thank you for your gift of hospitality.  For loving my friends and welcoming them.  For cooking for them, driving them all over, teasing them, and teaching them as a high school substitute teacher.  I wish I could have realized at that time how proud I should have been to have you around to be my date at the honor banquet.  Instead of wishing some silly boy had driven me.

I wish you had thought I was strong enough to handle a good-bye conversation instead of trying to protect me.  I'm a mom now.  I understand the need to shelter, the desire to keep the sadness and hard things at bay.  But, I wish I could have looked you in the eye and heard you say that you were not afraid to die. That you were ready to meet your Jesus.  That you knew what was coming and you were okay with that. 

I wish you could have given me your final charge and blessing.  To finish college strong.  (which I did).  To marry well, a man like you.  (which I did).  To love fiercely and pour myself out.  (which I'm working on).  To be a parent like you--who makes memories and puts people first and serves others.  (how I'm trying).   I wish I could have heard just one last time how much you loved me and how proud you were and how you had no regrets.

I wish now, Dad, that you could see these grandchildren of yours.  All six of them.  Your sons-in-law who carry on your legacy.  They serve others, with a heart like yours.  How funny that Mindy and I should marry men so very like our Dad.  I wish you could see Kaleigh's strength of character and determination.  I see you there.  I wish you could see Collin and Marc's quiet and gentle spirits and tender hearts.  I see you there.  I wish you could see Cooper's love of life and enthusiasm and sense of humor.  I see you there.  I wish you could see Caris' analytical thinking and thoughtfulness.  I see you there.  I wish you could see Drew's passion and energy.  Because I see you there.

You may not be able to read these words, but I still see you so often throughout my days.   When you died, I made way in my heart to make God my Abba Father.  He became my "dad" in a way he never had before.  As if you passed the baton, and God filled those big holes in my heart.  When I lost my grip on the things that had once given me security, I held more tightly to the One who made me.          

No regrets.  The pain is lessened.  The sharpness has become a dull ache.  Where I once weighed down by grief, I know feel a hope.  It's bittersweet, but yet beautiful to see the full circle of life.  To be looking ahead to parenting in seasons that you missed with us.  To know that I have a legacy to pass on.  I have so much to be thankful for.  

Thanks so very much, Dad, for choosing to live well.  To fight hard.  To love your Jesus with all of your heart.  To love your girls with dedication.  To pour into us in a way that will forever have ripple effects as we pass it on.  

These are the things I wish you knew.  Yet somehow, I think you do.       

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