As I look back on the last 18 months of my life, there is so much to review. I’ve survived not one, but two, life threatening events that have shown me how much I have to be grateful for in this life. Of those things, I’ve come to realize that most people today do not have the privilege of being in constant contact, yet alone are able to know, their biological fathers. To me this is a disheartening situation that I cannot either fathom nor comprehend. In my life, I have not only been blessed with having a biological father that has been there for me no matter the circumstances, but also “Bonus Dads” that too have nurtured and guided me through many the difficult and blessed times in my life.
There are those that would look down on my upbringing in that it was too conservative, unstable, and demanding. To this I say, in some degrees I tend to agree with you. I was raised in a Nazarene parsonage where the rules were more strict than those of the others in my circle of friends. I was not allowed to attend dances, I didn’t see my first movie until after I left home, on my first visit home after attending college I got my ears pierced for the first time after my Mom signed the waiver only to have her exit the Claire’s store to cry while I got them done, I had a strict curfew, and dating was definitely something that could only be done upon reaching the age of 16. I’ve often been questioned about the instability of my childhood in that it involved frequent moves due to my Dad’s profession as a minister. Though they were difficult to not only accept, but to also become accustomed to, they were also a common part of my life that I learned (though not always happily) to accept. As for demanding?? Yes, It was VERY demanding. We were what others looked up too, used as examples, and would criticize to no end. That was the most difficult of all to follow. In seeing what the ‘other’ parishioners’ children could do beyond what we could and constantly question “Why can they…?” when I couldn’t. We were to represent the standards that our denomination had set into place no matter what others may do even though their guidelines were the same.
What I would not change are the blessings I’ve been given with each and every opportunity each new location brought. The experiences that I gained in learning about the diversities that exist in the many regions of our great country and the people that taught them to me. Of these people, I have come to know several as ‘Dad’ throughout my lifetime. Each has been there for me at different times of my life, each giving me the guidance and direction needed at those particular times. There was Gary Williams, from my time spent in Iowa, who, with his wife, Carolyn, kept us under his wing and his roof on more occasions than I can count. Memories flood my mind of four kids, who became as close as any brothers or sisters could, spending countless evenings doing what kids do while expertly distracting me from the issues of home with my Mom’s numerous hospital stays. Which brings me to Mark Fletcher and his wife Carolyn. Though Mark is now gone, his legacy continues in that he too helped raise someone else’s daughter during a time that stability was key. Mark and my Dad were partners both in church and in work, but their biggest partnership was in jointly raising their children. During a time of complete confusion over my Mom’s health and continued frequent hospitalizations, their home was one where I was always welcomed as treated as one of the family. Last, but not least, I mention the Rev. Jerrold Lake. A man that has seen me at my worst, most disparaging moments, yet showed me through counseling, guidance, and love that this too was just a moment in time that I could overcome. Eventually, I did just that, but I don’t believe it would have been possible without his patience and unconditional love. To my great joy, two of my ‘Dads’ are now family in their own right as a son and daughter were united in marriage recently. Be still my heart as my family has come full circle!
Yet, through all the changes and opportunities that my life has brought me, there has been one person who has been by my side throughout them all. He was there to give me my name, to hold me when I was hurt, to punish and guide me in the wrong and right way, to uplift me when I could not do so myself, to comfort me during the loss of a parent, to cry with me when bringing a new life into this world, and to be my first date as a shy 13 year-old who was just beginning to learn about life . It’s been his encouragement, praise, and pride that I have strove for. It’s his name that I proudly carry and hope to have brought and continue to bring honor too. It is in his shadow that I confidently walk knowing I never have to fear the unknown as long as he is there beside me.
It has been the most difficult time of my life to date these past few months to say the least. Yet, during each and every one of these times, I have awoken to the strongest, most caring, faithful, generous, and loving man I’ll ever know standing next to my hospital bed. It’s been during those drug induced hazes, that on opening my eyes and seeing him there, that my heart has leapt like a child’s running to jump into her Daddy’s arms. It is then that I once again know without any shadow of a doubt, I am…and will always be…my Daddy’s daughter.