I am rich, very rich, in daughters
Each child, all three and all girls came into our lives at intervals back in the 1970’s. So as I reflect upon the joys, mysteries and occasional challenges of being a dad, my memories span decades and over time have woven into a vibrant tapestry that is still being shaped today. Time, as we know, has a way of smoothing out the scariest and most difficult moments of parenting. Yet whether it was illness, injury, emotional hurts or those fright-filled forty-five seconds when a daughter went missing at the mall, as a dad I have been blessed to parent alongside a terrific woman and wife for the past forty-four years. I am convinced beyond doubt that parenting in partnership in every way has made me a better father and a dad to our girls. For sure, I am rich, very rich, in daughters.
As a dad and being a parent to adult children is in itself a peculiar and marvelous kind of relationship. One minute I find myself remembering the child who once mastered the playground and the next moment my daughter, now in her mid-thirties is detailing her upcoming trip abroad with her work. There are subtle moments, too, when as dad, my role is to listen, support, sometimes suggest, comfort or simply be present non-verbally to any one of our daughters should the need arise. And there are times, to my amazement actually, when they as full-fledged adults, are in so many words, or by their actions, are letting me know that I should be listening to them and accepting their advice. I may not always agree with their message to me but I know that I love them more deeply for it.
I especially cherish three major life events with each of my daughters. And it is one that very few fathers have the opportunity to experience. All three are married now, and because I am a Friends Minister, each daughter and the men they were engaged to asked me to officiate at their wedding. Their mom, not me, walked each daughter down the aisle. As a dad to this day, the memories and feelings I had upon each daughter’s wedding day, from the honor of hearing the weight of their vows recited to solemnizing their union and pronouncing them married one to the other, is a gift that gladdens my heart every day.
They sneaked in on little ships one day
Then the years came when that blessing and gift grew by two, then three and four and now, like wildfire into five and then six new lives. Count them! Six glorious little lives all their own called grandchildren. They sneaked in on little ships one day when I was busy doing something else that seemed important.
I am not sure how this all happened. There’s no manual, no playbook, nothing on being grampy, just unwritten expectations that come without words or fanfare. Each of them, Kevin, Madison, Owen, Joshua, Zachary and Morgan, just moved in to the middle of who I am, set sail and changed whatever course I thought I was on forever.
Sometimes I look at each of them and say nothing. I just look at them, these little relatives, and I wonder about the joys and storms each will face as their lives unfold into tomorrow. Already each owns real estate within my heart. Each makes me laugh, love, play and worry in ways I have not known before. It brings me back to the hours when I first became a father all those years ago, wondering how I would measure up, not just as a father, but as a dad.
These days whenever one of our granddaughters greets me, she always says “Hello grandfather.” To the rest, I am grampa or grampy. To my daughters I am forever their dad which is a title I will never relinquish. And to myself, when I scan the room with my whole family sitting about, I am husband, father, dad and grandfather on every day. But on this Father’s Day, I am filled with joy and with a prayer of very deep gratitude for what has become a family complete.
Text and photos by K.Lee