My husband didn’t have a father.
Oh, he had a man who was physically present in the home throughout his life and was technically his father.
But he was not a dad, not by a long shot.
That story is his to tell, not mine. However, what I can say is that my husband is a miracle of grace.
From the moment our kids were born, Doug fully embraced his role as “Daddy.”
He read endless stories. He willingly watched the same movies over and over. He was able to patiently endure all those silly kids shows that left me wanting to scream. (Seriously, how could anyone stand to watch that insipid singing purple dinosaur named Barney every single morning?!). He took on the herculean task of teaching math to Josh and Julia during our homeschooling years because math remains my biggest nightmare to this day.
He made bath-time fun. He patiently answered all their questions, both serious and silly. He kissed boo-boos and his arms were always open for a cuddle.
Every Saturday morning, he took the kids out to breakfast so I could sleep in. (if I had thought that he was the perfect man before, I certainly knew he was when he began that particular tradition!).
Those Saturday morning excursions were accompanied by a customized soundtrack. Doug made up a mix tape (hey, it was the 90′s!) of all his favorite tunes and he played it from the moment they left the driveway until they returned. The “Saturday tape” was an eclectic mix of artists: Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Little Feat, Dionne Warwick (singer of the only cheesy song on the tape, ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’?), Don McLean, Billy Joel, etc.
A few weeks ago, Doug decided to make a list of all the songs on that tape with Julia’s help. Together, they compiled the complete list, which Julia immediately downloaded onto her iPod.
Her grin was brighter than the sun and her eyes danced happy.
“This is the soundtrack of my childhood!” she exclaimed, bubbling over.
Of this I am certain: Julia will return to these songs again and again during the storms that will undoubtedly hit her life. Those songs will represent her happy place, a time of innocence, sheer happiness, wonderful memories, and utter safety.
As the kids got older and they ventured further and further out into the world, Doug was always there to offer support, enthusiastic endorsements of their interests, a strong shoulder, a listening ear, sage advice, a brilliant sense of humor, and his vast array of knowledge.
“Is there anything you don’t know?” Julia asked incredulously during a recent family dinner.
Doug spent countless hours researching colleges for Josh and he will do the same for Julia. He organized all of our college trips and especially enjoyed showing the kids where he had gone to undergraduate and graduate school. He was thrilled when Josh got accepted to his alma-mater and proceeded to embark on hours of searching out the best scholarships available.
He also taught both kids how to drive, refusing to cut corners on the state-mandated 40 hours of parental instruction. They drove all over the state in a variety of conditions so the kids would be prepared for any weather event.
He came home with a wistful smile one particular night that marked the end of Julia’s instruction. He said that while lots of parents would consider that responsibility a drudgery, he saw it as a gift of time with his kids during the days when their lives seemed to be moving at warp speed as the end of high school loomed large on the horizon.
A total of 80 never-to-be-repeated hours with his kids. Priceless.
As I said, Doug is a miracle of grace. He came to know Jesus when he was 27 years old. His living Savior made all the difference, as He always does. That day, He set Doug on a different path than the one his father had taken and he has never looked back.
As the grace and love of Christ took greater and greater hold on his heart, Doug became the man his father never was: an incredible husband and an extraordinary father. Doug’s own sisters marvel at the man their little brother has become…so different from what they knew growing up.
They chalk it all up to various things; we know that the difference is Jesus.
For Father’s Day this year, we hiked up one of the many mountains in our state. It was a gloriously beautiful day.
After climbing the mountain, we went to a local country store to enjoy a delicious lunch.
We carried our lunch across the street to the town green and ate on a picnic table in the midst of a playground.
Small town America at its’ finest.
The kids had barely finished eating before racing away from the table to play. I immediately picked up my camera, delighted to capture their playful abandon as they relived their childhood on swings, slides, and spinners.
Doug and I smiled at each other in the summer sunshine.
Our formal parenting days are fast drawing to a close. We have loved taking this journey together and we are treasuring the remaining days ahead before our son heads off to college.
Come what may, I know one thing: Josh and Julia have had the most excellent example in their father.
Doug has taught Josh how to be a man, how to cherish and love a woman, and how to be an incredible father. He has shown Julia what a real man looks like and taught her by example to accept and expect nothing less. She will certainly know an impostor and a fool when she sees one.
It has been said that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.
My kids have the very best daddy and I will be forever grateful.