Rip currents are a dangerous side effect of the ocean water returning from the shore back out to the sea. I was brave, and rarely afraid. Every summer we would, like most Charlestonians, drive to the beach and enjoy a day soaking up the sun and playing in the waves. My mother would always stay on the shore and bask in the small break afforded to her by my dad as he would splash around with my brother and I and “jump” over the waves.
My dad was a hands-on kind of dad and was always playing, teaching, and talking to us. Dylan is three and a half years younger than I am, the youngest of my father’s children, and most importantly, his only son. I never felt as if my dad played favorites with us. Sometimes I felt like he disliked us all equally when he was handing down discipline, but when he was showing one of my siblings attention and nurturing love, I rarely felt jealous. I knew that he loved me. I knew that Dylan and I would always be able to “jump” the waves with his help and that he would never let us go underwater for more than a few seconds without scooping us up and disallowing a rip current from taking us away from his safe arms. We were safe.
Safe and selfish turned into insecure and selfless this past Thursday as my small family felt bigger than ever as we crowded around my dads bedside as we watched him gasp. He was dying. We removed his breathing tube and spent what seemed like forever holding his hand and I controlled the only thing that I could: the nurses. I monitored how frequently they gave him medications to ensure he was comfortable, and whispered into his ear to “go to Jesus” and “thank you for every single thing, Dad. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made all of your life for me.” I held his previously strong hand as he took his last breath. The same hand that used to scoop me up from any danger. It was now completely still and I felt the danger.
He was no nonsense. He was a man’s man. He was very black and white. There was something about his charming aggressiveness and unwavering confidence that made decisions easy. If he told you to do something, then you truly were a fool for not doing it. As I grew into adulthood, my dad would never say one word about how he had told me the right thing to do and that I had disobeyed, thankfully, but so many times I’ve found myself thinking, “damn it! Why didn’t I just do this the hard way, the correct way, the first time?!”
I guess I got my aggressiveness and confidence from my Dad, but I certainly didn’t have the life experience he did. Rarely was there any gray area when he was dealing with anything, especially his children. I have always joked that I “live in gray,” as I feel that rules are meant to be broken, and minds are meant to be pliable. We spent most of my life butting heads as stubborn aand unwavering souls. I think I drove him crazy sometimes with my ADD and lackadaisical behaviors, but as I grew older and wiser he became much more accepting and respectful of my ways and I of his ways. We were so similar that it took us years to figure out we were the same person with two separate, yet acceptable, ways of doing things.
I miss him already. I will miss 3 things very much about my Dad: the security blanket he provided, the person that he was, and the smile he regularly supplied to my mothers face so effortlessly. They were in love from the moment she saw him in a bar and then married him at age 21, until and even past the moment she found him collapsed in their beautiful home at age 58.
Now we are all faltering without his strong presence. We want to conduct ourselves in a way that will honor him and make him proud.
Whenever I would second guess myself I would call my Dad. He would always tell me the right decision. When he would occasionally ride the fence and and not give me a direct answer I would give him a hard time. I would say something to the effect of, “Dad. Why did I even call you if you’re going to let me make my own decision?! If I wanted someone to listen and bite their tongue a little then I would’ve called mom! Just tell me what to do!” He would usually relent after my pouty, yet relatively playful, guilt trip and just give me a directive, to which I would reply, “ok, thanks Dad. Love you!” He would never let me down with his reply of, “You’re welcome. I love you bunches.”
Yes, “bunches.” I don’t know. It was our thing. Sometimes I felt like I had gotten a little too old for anyone to “love me bunches,” but then I would reconsider. Who the heck wants to go through life without someone loving them enough to say bunches? Not me. And I didn’t have to.
And then there is now. From this moment on all difficult or confusing decisions will be made with hesitation.
The old proverb, “He who hesitates is lost” couldn’t be more true. We are all lost. The security blanket is gone. The person, my father, is now with my Heavenly Father, and the permanent smile he brought to my mothers face is no longer effortless. We are lost and sad. We are hesitant.
How shall we carry on without the patriarch of our family? Dylan will one day become a dad himself, and his Dad won’t be there to see his beautiful new grandson or granddaughter. I was so blessed to have my Dad bring a GIANT teddy bear to the hospital when my eldest son, Jack, was born almost a decade ago. He was proud of his grandson and he was proud of me. How will my poor brother feel in the moment his child is born one day? Not just sweet, but bittersweet knowing that “G-Daddy” isn’t there to witness his only sons first born. There won’t be a giant teddy bear for my brother to try to find a place for in a little nursery. Although, maybe I’ll bring it. I can’t replace my Dad, but I can keep his memory alive and honor him the best way I know how. I will be my Moms security blanket. My brothers security blanket. I will make her smile again. I can never fill my fathers’shoes, but each member of my family has a quality that we can combine and try.
He has left us alone and scared and missing him, but I have comfort knowing that he does not miss any of us. He’s so happy in Heaven. He is all-knowing and he trusts the Lord, as do I, to take His powerful hand to scoop us up from danger.
The Bible promises, “There are no accidents with God, His timing is perfect, and He works all things together for good, for the one taken and those left” (Rom. 8:28-29). When a believer is called home, it’s because God’s purposes for that believer are over. It’s because in God’s love and wisdom, He wants that believer with Him in glory.
I’ve always had two dads. My earthly father and my Heavenly one. They are teaming up to care for us, stop our hesitation, and use their powerful hands to rescue all of us from danger and loneliness. One day the rip current of death will take my family to be with my Dad and our Father and they will use their powerful hands to lift us from danger into a place of pure bliss with my Dad and Jesus.
And Dad, thank you for always sacrificing in order to make sure your children were happy, healthy, and educated properly.
And Dad, thank you for your unconditional love.
I did not start out as a “daddy’s girl”, but I ended up as one. And I loved every minute of it. And I will forever continue to do so in eternity one day.
I learned from the best, so enjoy your golf game. I’ve got this.
Your hesitant/decisive/impulsive/level-headed, “gray area” girl,