Thursday, May 8, 2014

A letter to my dad on his 60th birthday


If there’s a word to describe you, it’s consistency. I can’t think of one time in my life where I have been uncertain whether you were coming or uncertain whether you would be there for me. I’ve never doubted that. Not once.  

You’ve always been an incredible dad, and most incredibly, you were present. Even when life was stressful, money was tight, or schedules were busy—you always made time for us. You attended dance recitals that may or may not have lasted for hours upon hours. You watched me play basketball at an age when watching basketball could not have been on the short list of your favorite things to do. When I think about how hard you work even today and how long your hours were when I was growing up, from making rounds in the morning to clinic all day to more rounds in the evening, coming home at 6 or sometimes 7—I see now more than I ever could what a sacrifice it was to attend those week-night events.

When you took Michalea and I away for our Daddy/Daughter weekends, you didn’t just take us to cool restaurants and buy us nice clothes and help us pick out our prom dresses. All of those activities were great—and our shopping trips for prom dresses are some of my favorite memories with you. Not many dads will do that—in fact, I don’t know of another person’s dad who has done that. You sat on many benches outside many dressing rooms for hours and hours and hours. Why? Because you love us so. You spent more money than I can probably imagine not just on clothes and dresses, but on hotel rooms and fancy dinners. Why? Because you love us so. You invested in our hearts, you invested in our daddy/daughter relationship, and you taught us—literally taught us—how to search out the hearts of our potential husbands.

And, Dad, if there’s one thing I’m most proud of, it’s not the things you said to me; it’s not the lectures you gave, or even the advice. It’s the way you lived. You lived the husband that I wanted to marry; you lived the dad that I wanted my husband to be. You lived it, and I saw it, and somehow I knew there would be a man like you who was worth waiting for.

I’m also forever grateful that because of the time you took to invest in us; because of the lessons I learned from you about men, you instilled in me standards for myself and for others. I know I didn’t always make good choices with my boyfriends, but I made the right choice in the end—the only choice that ever mattered so much. You had a lot to do with that choice. And I chose well.

You’ve taught me more lessons than you can imagine, and again, it’s not because of what you said but because of how you lived. You told us that we should find something we love doing and do it; that it’s not about how much money one can make, it’s about how satisfied he feels at the end of the day; that it’s not about how much recognition one can get, it’s about how happy he can be when he’s walking in his gifting and passion. My personality may have already been “set” to be driven and goal-oriented, but you encouraged me and supported me to pursue what I love. There were many, many hard days to get to where I am, and you listened to countless hours of my stress and complaints—but you always believed in me. And because you believed in me, I could believe in myself.

You taught us to be wise with our money. Even as early as 16, you showed me how to apply for a job and how to interview. You helped me open my first checking and savings account. Because of all that you taught me, I saved and bought my first car at 17. A nice, good, reliable car that lasted me for 8 years. Something that seems so simple as budgeting is not simple at all: it’s life-changing. And having seen others who were not taught the same skills, I’ve never been more grateful. We own a house we can afford; we don’t purchase things we can’t or shouldn’t—and we have been richly blessed in ways that money can’t buy. You taught me how to tithe. And you taught me how to give. Because you were and have always been generous, you instilled in me—in all of us kids—a heart to be generous to others.

You taught me that character is built from the inside, from a heart and a life of integrity, from a person who is the same at home as he is at church as he is at work. That’s you. And it’s who I want to be. You work hard. You never quit. You’re never lazy. And you never expect someone else to do what you can do yourself. Your character speaks. I want mine to speak like that, too.

Thank you for sending me to London. I grew up in London in ways I am still processing. I learned so much about being alone, about navigating a big city, about who I am and what I wanted to be. I fell in love with learning in London. I fell in love with language—with linguistics—which carried me all the way through my PhD. And today, I get to teach courses like Advanced Grammar that make my heart more happy than you can imagine—and somehow, I know, it started with London.

Thank you for buying the ranch. It is a safe place for us all, and I’m thankful for the hours we’ve had to spend together out there. Sometimes working. Sometimes talking. Sometimes doing nothing at all. It’s one of my favorite places to be—and it has less to do with the location or the building or the land and everything to do with who I get to be with when I’m there.

Thank you for coming to my recitals and plays and games and for telling me I’m beautiful and for buying me roses on Valentine’s Day and for helping me to have confidence in who I am.

Thank you for being a dad who was present and consistent. Thank you for being there—wherever there was.

I tell you all the time I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have you as my dad. It’s true. You have played a huge role in who I was and who I am and who I will become. I know that life is precious and that it’s never guaranteed. I’m thankful that we are here—and God has given us today. One more day. One more breath. I won’t take it for granted.

I look forward to the days of our growing family—as we all add children and grandchildren to the mix. But I’m so thankful for the foundation. You built that foundation, and God has honored it and graced it and blessed it deeply.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad!
I love you!