It’s been a quiet day. A day, that in the past, has been one of sorrow. For the first time I had to remind myself that I used to celebrate this day. I found myself not even caring that years gone by I would acknowledge him on this the day of his arrival. Instead I find myself reflecting on other people. The one who didn’t have to be my dad but chose to be my dad.
He, the guitar player, loved to play with my father, the piano player. When the pastor asked if his family wanted to foster yet another teenager, he was willing. I arrived in August 1991. My relationship with my own father was shaky and I was scared to have another father in my life. He turned out to surprise me.
I think my new family picked up pretty quick on my naivety. Before I knew it, they had convinced me that brown cows gave chocolate milk. When I finally realized they were teasing me he busted out into a huge fit of laughter. I began to love his laugh. It was a pretty frequent occurrence. He would say something silly, I’d believe him, and he’d laugh. Oh how he loved to tease me!
This man, who loved to laugh, loved my new momma like crazy. Like seriously crazy. I think he told me the story of how he met her at least five times in the first year. I never tired of hearing it. I’d never seen a man love a woman this much before.
Although I missed my own momma and siblings, I loved being a part of my new family. I knew it was where I belonged. My friends would ask me how I could live with all the rules. I simply replied, “Because they love me.”
I knew beyond all doubt that they loved me.
When he wasn’t laughing he was lecturing me. I admit. I tuned him out … a lot. But I appreciated that if I needed some advice he’d take the time to listen to me. One day we were driving in the car on an errand. We stopped at Burgerville for cheeseburgers. (I have him to thank for my love of these burgers!) We were discussing my future. What was I going to do for college? How was I going to pay for living expenses? I battled hay fever and needed medication. Unfortunately I had no health insurance and no way to pay for it out of the little amount I made at Target. He casually says, “I have a solution. We can adopt you and then I can put you on the insurance and we’d be able to help you with college.” I became very quiet. He was offering me a permanent place in their family. I desperately wanted to say yes; loyalty to my family made me say no. I knew that he wanted to help me but at the time I was confused and upset.
My graduation arrived and so did my parents. I was a lucky girl who had not one but TWO set of parents who spoke about her. Afterward we took pictures with both sets of parents. One of my favorite pictures is of my two dads and I. I wish I could go back to that day and tell me to savor every bit of that moment!
The transition from high school to college to getting married was tricky. And although I struggled with learning to be an adult and respect them as parents, I loved these two people who had taken me into their hearts and made me their daughter … even if I wouldn’t let them adopt me.
I remember the day I told him that the husband had asked me to marry him. We had a two hour talk. About marriage. Life. Love. Being a wife. At the end of the lecture I was exhausted. I couldn’t see how I could possibly do all the things he advised me to do. I knew one thing: If the husband loved me as much as he loved his wife, I’d be a happy girl forever.
After we surprised everyone and married secretly, they invited us to dinner. I was nervous. Before I’d just been their daughter. Now we were coming over as a couple in the church. I smiled as we walked in. He insisted upon having dinner by candlelight. A sweet gesture by a man who I learned could be pretty darn romantic. As we were leaving he gave me a hug and told me he loved me. I had never felt so loved in my life. I knew he was pleased with me. (we didn’t use the word proud).
I was devastated when they discovered the cancer. At first I refused to believe the news. When he told me the news himself I just cried. I began to beg God to save the life of the man who had become my father. As the treatments quit working and hospice was called it became evident that we were going to lose him. My husband began to visit him often. During these times they’d talk about the future. He promised my dad that he’d take care of my mom, sister and me.
The evening before he died we stopped in after grocery shopping. The husband encouraged me to come in with him. I refused. I was wearing leggings and was embarrassed. I didn’t want to disappoint my family to see me not keeping the standard. I had no idea that I’d regret that decision. He died the next morning.
It’s been almost 21 years since he died. He didn’t get to walk my sister down the aisle. He’s never met my sister’s six children or my own. He missed seeing our brother’s daughter and his step-son grow up. I often wonder … would things have been different for us all had he not died so young?
There are times that my sister and I talk about him. I see his mischief smile in her 2nd child. Some days I miss the way he laughed. But most of all. I miss the way he loved me.
Today I’m thankful. Thankful that I was blessed to have another dad who showed me what love looked like. Thankful for a few years of my life that I felt very loved and wanted. Thankful for a family whose heart was big enough to love a girl who needed love.