A Daughter's Diary - Things I Wanted to Say and Never Wanted to Say
Although I speak in the first person and of my own experience, I’d feel amiss if I didn’t include my sisters, my lifelong companions, Julie and Jenny. A sibling, especially sisters, are the holders of your history. God spoke and our personal Genesis began and I saw that it was good (sorry to plagiarize the Bible)! The experiences I share in this were experiences shared by my two sisters as well. This is the story of us … and a few words about our dad. We may have different chapters, each personal and eventful but impactful, nonetheless. I respect their histories, perspectives and the memories they have that I’m not even aware of. We’ve shared so much in life but never wanted to share this in death.
However, our story begins with three little sisters who looked up to their Daddy, whom we found heroic, for, in him, we could find no wrong. (Except for the chores he made us do!) We are now thankful for the work ethic that our parents instilled in us, the life skills and lessons we were taught. All of this was building our foundation, self-discipline, and confidence which equipped us well when we transitioned into adulthood. All of us knew the word WORK! We worked at home, on the farm raising cattle, and would take babysitting jobs once we were old enough. Then the real jobs came; why did we want to grow up so fast?!
Nonetheless, we do grow up and after we say goodbye to our toys and joys of childhood, the real world creeps in. I discovered this as a parent and remembered that part of the polish wears off the superhero armor when, as teens, we realized our parents were human too; they (gasp!) could make mistakes, living, growing and discovering how to walk by faith and deal with the challenges that life brought. However, we never heard them fight, they never discussed people, problems or financial difficulties that we had. I only heard words like, “We cannot afford that just yet.” Otherwise, I never knew we struggled; we were just like most families in our community.
My dad worked two jobs because my parents felt it was important that we come home to our mother until we were older and self-sufficient and then, she began working. What we trusted in was that we had what we needed, and within reason, much of what we wanted. Whatever the case may be, through the tough times and then more prosperous times, we were blessed and loved and that’s all that really matters.
Until love is tested, we will never know if it’s true. If someone can see you at your worst moments and love you through, then they will love you through it all. That is the unconditional love of my father and my Heavenly Father. That love will never leave you.
One of my favorite memories lives among the precious gems in the treasure trove of my heart. It was Christmas Eve and my sisters and I were in our traditional matching Christmas nightgowns getting ready to watch a night of our favorite holiday cartoon classics: Charlie Brown, Rudolph, The Grinch, and Frosty. My mom had all of us come downstairs and sit together for a surprise. All of a sudden, my dad walked in carrying a big color TV (which we had always wanted)! I will never forget his smile as he carried it in. We jumped for joy and squealed with delight! What a thrill it was to watch Rudolph in color! All of us plopped on the floor to get as close as we could.
Everything looked magical in color and since Rudolph was the first show, his nose really was so bright!
What we didn’t know was that he and my mom had saved for quite a while and joined the Christmas club at the bank. Color TV’s were $500 when they were first invented, in the late ’50s, and considered very high-priced. With the US inflation rate, $500 in the early ’60s is equivalent in 2020 to $4,347 in purchasing power. Can you imagine the thought and planning to save that amount just for us to have an unforgettable Christmas memory? Well, unforgettable it was and I’m so thankful that I noticed my dad’s big smile that said, “This moment was worth every cent!”
We didn’t take big fancy vacations but did little trips in Ohio where we’d leave before sunrise to beat the traffic ... we never understood that, but we tottered to the car with blankets and pillows in tow. These were vacations to us, but an offering of love from my parents since we never realized these were costly. Why? They never told us how hard they worked, what they personally were giving up, what they were sacrificing. We weren’t made to feel guilty so they could look great.
That’s part of what creates greatness in a person: doing what is necessary and/or unnecessary, and not using it as a weapon or reminder, but rather as an act of unmitigated love. These were our earliest lessons in the absolute truth that God never fails us. That profound truth is undergirded by the realization that relationships create an archive. We can flip through our minds, in a split second, and know who we can and cannot trust based on experiences. Once trust is established then faith follows because we know that person is “for us.”
People are not perfect and when someone fails, love compels us to forgive. A heart filled with God’s love cannot be unforgiving or grudge-bearing because it shouldn’t have any room. Our hearts can’t be weighed down with that clutter or we can’t hear or reflect God. He desires to take our burdens so we can take the burdens of another. In other words, we have to lighten the load and stop rehearsing our hurts and offenses; we are only hurting ourselves. (Been there, done that!)
God never fails and because our dad never failed us, it was easy to trust God. In my dad’s generation, a man’s word was as important as any signed document. “I gave him my word that I would do this ... I gave my word.” I heard this so many times while growing up. If my dad gave his word, whatever he promised to do would happen because he said so.
A man’s word and a handshake spoke of honor and integrity. If someone broke their word, they lost trust and it was a huge breach of a character contract.
My dad’s word was truth so again, it was easy to accept learning that when God gave us His word, it was going to happen ... because He said so!
For each of us, this valiant, giant of a man, and his worth to us, could never be measured on this side of heaven. Only God knows the many lives he’s touched. But for three daughters, who held onto his hands for many and varied reasons, his worth is as immeasurable as our love for him.
Men and women used to say to my dad, “Boy, do we feel sorry for you. You’re sure in trouble, having three girls.” I always wondered what was wrong with girls and who’d want a stinky boy around anyway? He would chuckle, but rarely comment and had this particular face he’d make that was funny to us but can’t be explained or duplicated. I miss that face. While I’m on the subject, he cannot be duplicated either.
On having three daughters, I often wondered what he actually thought, but drew my own conclusion. “Sons can’t show their emotions like girls so I get a lot of hugs around my neck, my cheeks get lots of little kisses and yeah, I have three girls but they are their daddy’s girls. (Not to mention, between the three of us, he was blessed with seven grandsons and two granddaughters!)
My memory serves me well while hearing him say, “Well, you got that right,” (a signature phrase of his). “I’m in trouble since I have three weddings to pay for!”
I can picture the look on my dad’s unforgettable face when he’d joke about that. When my son was younger, he said that tears happened when your heart spilled over. How sweet and innocent are the words of a child, and in this case, (perhaps I’m partial) quite profound! That’s exactly what crying feels like and it also happens to punctuate the beautiful memories of three wedding days. Each and every time, my precious dad was in tears; his heart was spilling over when he walked three brides down the aisle and gave us away ...
How well-acquainted we’ve become with tears. How interesting are these droplets of fluid that come from a place that says, “My soul is overwhelmed at this moment.” Whether they are tears of joy, anger, frustration, pain, sorrow, anguish, or any overwhelming feeling one can describe, they express what words cannot explain. Tears give us permission to be transparent; to at long last become the truth of who we are while earnestly giving our soul the most genuine words spoken in silence.
*Special Note: Part two will continue on a more personal note as I share on the subject of grief and loss, the process of healing and of course, the ultimate compassion and grace of God who blankets us in the warmth of His infinite love. Thank you for joining me today and for the tomorrows to come.