“There are 3 things that amaze me – no 4 things that I don’t understand: how an eagle flies through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.” Proverbs 30:18-19.
Growing up, my dad would remark that the relationship between a man and a woman is complicated. Most often, he was referring to some unnamed couple that came to him for counseling. Recently though, he told me that the relationship between a father and his daughter was “complex”. I think he is right. Let me tell you why.
Our Complex Relationship
My admiration for my dad began as a little girl. I looked up to him and wanted to be like him. At the same time, any criticism from him crushed me. To give you a glimpse into this complex relationship of ours, I will share 3 things. First, I will tell you my dad’s favorite story about me – how I learned to walk. Second, I will tell you the qualities my dad instilled in me that have helped me live life well. Third, I will tell you about a chain of events that changed our relationship, and helped me to see and love him in a completely different way.
Learning to Walk Early
My dad is a storyteller. His favorite story about me is how he taught me to walk by the time I was 9 months old! My dad observed me pulling myself up and trying to walk. Every evening when he came home, he would stand me on the bed and urge me to walk while he steadied me. Honestly, I cannot imagine how unsteady I must have been trying to walk on a surface that gives with every step. The day came when my mom jumped out of her skin after I walked into the bathroom, where she was on her knees scrubbing the tub, and touched her from behind. She excitedly called my dad to tell him the good news that I had taken my first steps! Apparently, I clambered out of the play pen on my own to carry out this great feat. My mom says I was always “daddy’s little girl”. My dad tells this story to anyone who will listen as he introduces me – This is my eldest daughter, Laura, my beautiful, little girl.
Learning to Live Well
I share many physical characteristics with my dad – the most prominent feature being our hands. These hands are symbolic of what I learned most from my Dad – how to live life well. Growing up, I wanted to please him by doing my best at whatever I attempted. From watching him, I learned self-discipline, organization, and perseverance. Anything worth doing, was worth doing well. Whatever you start, you finish. Study hard. Work hard. Don’t give up. If you give your word, you keep it. When my siblings and I were in school, my dad would always tell us – stay in school, get an education, and don’t get married! I think he should have said – don’t get married, stay in school, and get an education. Put first things first. At any rate, listening to my dad paid off. I enjoy a successful career in software engineering and all of my needs are met by God’s grace.
Learning to Love with New Eyes
In mid-March of this year, I received a phone call from my dad that seemed to set off a chain of events that would change our relationship forever. My dad announced that he and mom had decided it was time to move closer to their daughters. He asked me to take the lead and request my sisters’ help in finding them a suitable place to live in the Rockwall area. One month later, the death of my nephew triggered their visit to the Dallas area. I asked if they would like to visit the retirement home that my sister recommended. In one week, they were packed and moved in to their new home. One month after that, my dad was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. This type of dementia affects your short-term memory and your behavior. Due to his increasingly aggressive behavior towards my mom, my family made the painful decision to move my dad to a memory care home in Sachse.
I am now able to spend more time with my dad. It was during this time, that my dad remarked on the complexity of the father-daughter relationship. Puzzled, he asked me what our relationship was like as I was growing up. Did we talk? Did I know that he loved me? I told him that we did not talk a lot. He was tired from working hard all day. He nodded. I assured him that I knew he loved me and that I loved him. He seemed satisfied. Being able to spend this time with my dad, listening, talking, and observing, has caused me to see my dad in a whole new light. I have come to realize that dads are human too! For as long as my dad lives, I want him to know that I love him. No matter what the future holds, I know the God who holds our future, and I know that I am still… Daddy’s little girl.