That daughter was me.
I may have been his Sunshine, but it wasn’t because I could play basketball!
I was the kid in t-ball who ran the wrong way around the bases, threw my mitt at other players to tag them out, and made daisy chains in the outfield. I loved my little blue jersey with the pretty dolphin on it, but that’s about as far as my athletic ability extended.
Trina and Jen were into sports, and were really darn good at them! Dad got to coach my sisters through various sports, during various times in their lives, and they connected deeply with him this way. If he wasn’t coaching, he was in the stands, cheering them on and encouraging them to learn from their mistakes and try again.
Then, there was me.
The ballerina, singer, writer, bookworm, and thespian. I was everything he was not.
Dad became delighted to just sit and watch every recital, every concert, every play. He was just as proud of me as he was of Trina or Jen, but his role with me was different. He couldn’t advise me or give me tips, or “coach” me the way he could my sisters. We couldn’t discuss the latest book I’d read, and he couldn’t edit my English papers.
He told me once that it took him awhile to be okay with not being able to “coach” me in the very different pursuits I loved, but once he was okay with that, it was a delight to him to see me on stage, doing what I loved as well as I could. I can still see his smiling face next to my mom in various audiences over the years. As much as I loved any audience at all, it was really for my parents that I performed my heart out every time, knowing they would be so proud of me.
Then, I left home early. Only two years after I graduated high school.
I sometimes feel like I missed so much with Dad as an adult, because I left home so early, and didn’t look back. Not really, anyway. Until now. I look at the memories my sisters have with Dad as adults, and while I wouldn’t change my decisions of the past, I find myself wishing for memories like that, of my adult relationship with Dad. I only have snapshot memories, made once a year or so on short visits.
I look at the pictures we have been going through here, and feel the weight of story after story that my sisters and Dad have in time shared in their adult adventures.
When I call home, I almost always call Mom. When I need advice, I call Mom. It was Mom who was at the births of my four children (Dad made it for one of them). It has been Mom I have been building an adult friendship with, and I am so glad that I have. I need her so much, and she understands me. But – did I neglect Dad in the process? I don’t know.
Now, in these days, I have realized that I’m getting that time with Dad. In a different way than I ever imagined I would.
Of course, I have had a good relationship with my dad all these years, but it has felt like something was missing. I no longer feel that way. I feel like my training as a doula has prepared me for such a time as this. I am here because this is the time God has set aside for Dad and I. This is my time to build a richer relationship with Dad.
Of course, my sisters are here too, building a new dimension in their own relationship with him. But their role right now is different than mine. I can’t even attempt to define theirs, because all three of us are so unique. I am only trying to describe what I feel my own role is.
I feel like I was designed for the nuts and bolts of what’s happening, and while all three of us are participating in Dad’s care, and ministering to him, I feel like a more complete person in this role. It’s hard to explain how I feel now…
This just feels different for me, somehow. I feel like the years that feel lost to me have been found again in these months and weeks. Perhaps the years were never lost at all, only asleep. Perhaps those years were simply what they were meant to be all along, and my calling in regard to my dad is only taking shape now.
I don’t know.
Dad told me, back when I first got here, that he thinks that the greatest way a child can honor their father and mother as adults, is to live their lives in a way that honors God. “Even if you never called me, or sent pictures, or visited us ever again. Tiff, the way you and Levi live your lives honors me, and I’m proud of you.”
He is proud of all three of his daughters – simply because we are his daughters. He loves each of us, uniquely, and it has nothing to do with what we can or cannot do for him. We love him too, and that is enough for him.
So, that will have to be enough for me. I will have to let it all sink into my very marrow, and be content with my Dad’s contentment in me. I will have to continue to bring honor to my parents by the way I live – no matter where that ends up being, or what it is that I’m doing.
I can manage that.
Grace & Peace