Last week I had the privilege of moderating an author discussion panel at a local Barnes & Noble store. To start off the discussion, I had asked the authors to read brief excerpts from their books. One woman had written a story about what happens when a person grows up without love—specifically what happens when “babies” have babies and don’t know how to parent.
In the scene she read, a young man (who had grown up in this loveless environment) goes to his girlfriend’s father and asks for her hand in marriage. The dad isn’t thrilled and he gives the prospective groom a tongue-lashing about how precious his daughter is to him, how he isn’t going to hand her over to just anybody.
I wish I had taken notes and could share a quote because my description hardly comes close to the eloquence and power of the author’s passage. I almost cried. Later, during the discussion, I joked that I wished I’d grown up with that fictional father. And I meant it.
My parents divorced when I was about four years old, and my father disappeared from our lives. My mom, my sister and I lived a pretty bare-bones existence in the “things” department, but we had an abundance of love.
Still, I didn’t realize how the absence of a male figure in my life affected me until years later. I shied away from boys and men in general. They were foreign creatures who either ignored or deserted you.
Then I met my husband-to-be in college, and later his dad. It took a while for Dad to warm up to me – hubby kept insisting that his dad was just quiet, that it had nothing to do with not liking me. But looking back, I have to wonder if he didn’t quite approve of his son’s choice. I didn’t come with a great pedigree, or money...or much of anything but need. But he was hubby’s best man at our wedding – although hubby jokes about him saying, even as I walked down the aisle, “It’s not too late, you know.” (I’m laughing...now.)
Despite what he might have been feeling, he treated me with nothing but (QUIET) respect. But more than that, he treated me with care. I didn’t have a car back then so walked three or four blocks to work. When it snowed, even a few inches (which was almost every night in northeastern Pennsylvania where hubby and I were living at the time), Dad would pick me up from their home at least a mile away to drive me the few blocks to my job. (And they were very QUIET rides, believe me.)
Eventually we started talking :-) and we developed our own relationship. He began to fuss when I went out by myself and got upset with his son (hubby) for not fussing. (Hubby was used to me bopping around by myself – I’d been doing it for years – but Dad was not.) At first I thought it was annoying – like he didn’t trust me to go out by myself. But then hubby explained that his dad was worried for me.
It was the proverbial “aha!” moment. I remember feeling so special. So loved. I remember thinking, So that's what it's like to have a dad.
|Dad with my sons, sharing his obsession...|
uh, I mean his love of golf.
Over the years we grew very close. I was at his side during his mother's funeral (my mother-in-law couldn't be there). He bought me maternity clothes and joined me on college trips for my sons. I sat with him during chemo treatments.
He became the dad I’d never had.
So when the author read her excerpt the other day, and I commented that I wished I had that dad growing up, I thought of my father-in-law and how blessed I was to have had him in my life.
When my sons have children, if they have daughters, I’m going to remind them just how special their grandfather made me feel even though I wasn’t really his.
Here’s to all the great dads out there who teach their daughters what it’s like to be cherished, and who make their beaux sweat, just a little, for their favor.
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. Visit her at LeahStJames.com.