15 June, 2014

I Love Being A Dad

Everyone knows that today is Father's Day, a day that we set aside to honor our dads in America. This morning I've been sitting and reflecting on my own dad, and the memories I cling to of him. He left us way too early, when I was only 5 years old; but I have so many memories of him that I have refused to allow to slip from my mind. I guess when you only have a few, you treasure them even more, so I remind myself of them often. I've had many "dads" over the years though, so in that regard I've been blessed because there have always been men that God placed in my life to teach me the things that a man needs to know, and I am so thankful for each and every one of them. I could write about each of them, and maybe one day I need to do that, but for today, I want to talk about my own experience as a father. Not in detail, but just what it means to be a dad. 

We hear it said often that anyone can father a child, but it takes a real man to be a dad. I get that. I really do. I was (and am) one of those guys who in some ways will never grow up. I'm 55 years old, but I'm still the cut up, the clown and practical joker. I did not get married until just a few weeks before I was 27 years old, and even then I really questioned if I was ready for marriage. My poor wife had no idea what she was getting into. I was always playing jokes on her and "being funny" which equates to being a bit mean. I would notoriously wait until she got into the shower and the water got warm and then throw a glass of cold water over the shower in over the top on to her. I thought that was funny. I'm sure she did not. Life was filled with things like that. But something happened on July 8, 1990. At 2:08 PM on a Sunday afternoon I stood in the delivery room and watched the doctors work feverishly to save my son's life when he was stuck in the birth canal with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck twice. A few minutes later the nurse placed my son in my arms for the very first time and the doctor walked over and whispered to me so as to not frighten my wife that our son would undoubtedly have brain damage because of the trauma he had just endured. At that moment, my life changed forever.

Perhaps I should first preface this by explaining that a few months before, the doctor had told my wife and I that our child would be born with spina bifida; meaning his spine would be on the outside of his body and that if he survived he would spend his life, such as it was, in a wheel chair. We were advised to have an abortion. We did not need to think it over. We told them that we would not abort, that we would trust God to do a miracle in our child (we did not know the gender of the baby until he was born) or we would trust God for the strength and grace to raise our child. They were not happy with our decision, but we would not be swayed. We simply do not believe in abortion. When my wife reached term and was ready to deliver, she was was in labor for more than 40 hours before the doctor finally came in and said that he felt that they had grossly misjudged the size of the baby and that his head was stuck in the birth canal. They prepped Libby for a C-section and we all went in for the delivery. As the opening incision the doctor was laughing and joking with us, and then suddenly his face grew stern and he quietly told the assisting nurse that the cord was around the babies neck twice. He worked with lightening speed and had the baby out in a matter of seconds. The nurse told us that we had a son and that he was perfect. I remember breathing a prayer of thanks because God had given us a miracle. Just a few minutes later, when that doctor  uttered the words to me that our son would be brain damaged, I snapped back, "No, he will not! The same God who gave us this perfect child will prove himself in the life of this boy."  I began to speak life to his mind and thought patterns and declare that his life would bring glory to our God. For the first time in my life, holding that little life in my hands I began to realize that his life was my responsibility. Life took on a new flavor and meaning from that day on. Life was not just about having fun anymore... it was about caring for my son. This is where the difference comes between fathering a child and becoming a dad. When you realize that you don't come first anymore, you become a dad. You will do without your wants, even your needs to make sure that your child has things and experiences things. Every mom and dad knows exactly what I'm talking about. The other type people are the ones who will give their kids candy and junk food to quiet their child while they selfishly fill their own guts with what they desire. Their child will lack clothing and diapers so that they can have the latest gaming system or other toy. That, my friends, is NOT a dad and most likely never will be.

I would be greatly amiss if I did not talk a little about the second change in my life. I thought life could never get any better than watching my son grow up and spending time with him... but I sure was wrong. On June 28, 1993, God gave me a daughter. I had no idea prior to Ashley's birth just what having a daughter would do to a dad. Going through the pregnancy and delivery while exciting, was not the same. I mean, I'd already done that and I was like, "can we get through this and be done with it?"  But that Monday in the delivery room, when they handed me my daughter... my heart just melted. From the moment I held Ashley in my arms, I was in love.  After she was born and Libby was back in her room, I went out to go shopping to buy her an outfit to bring her home in. I came back with 2 outfits and about 30 to 40 pairs of frilly socks. I just went nuts. From that day on, my precious jewel had her daddy wrapped around her finger. My mission is life has always been to protect and spoil that little girl.

So here we are, all these years later, and while Daniel will be 24 and  Ashley 21 in just a few weeks, in my mind, I still see my little babies. They are still my "responsibility", only in a whole different realm today. We just returned from a family vacation together and I treasured the time together, because I realize this just may never happen again or very few times at best. I enjoyed just looking at them and in my mind seeing the little boy build sand castles and the little girl doing cart wheels in the ocean surf. Days long gone, but forever etched in my mind. Memories that will last a lifetime. 

Today, "Father's Day" is not so much about them honoring me... not in my mind. It's about me looking at them and saying, "Thank you Lord for allowing me the privilege of being dad to two of the greatest gifts a man could ever have been given. Now days that house is back to the two of us again, and today I love and appreciate my wife more than ever. I treasure our time together and look forward to our future years together. I feel like of all the things we've accomplished in this life together, the greatest of them is raising two wonderful people in Daniel and Ashley. Yeah... I just love being a dad.

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