When I was born the nurse told my father, “It’s a boy” and he said, “Shove it back in there.” I should have known then I was going to be a Daddy’s girl. You see, I was the fourth child (an unfortunate glitch in their plans) and the first three were boys. My dad wanted a girl and the nurse wanted to have a little fun with him.
I was Daddy’s girl and still am. I went with him on side jobs as a construction worker. He helped me when I delivered newspapers on rainy days. Every Father’s Day, Dad and I would go fishing, just the two of us. He carried me back and forth to college when I couldn’t have a car. But he did so much more. My dad saved my life, in ways nobody will ever know.
My Dad worked six days a week and my other parent stayed at home. I had to live a very sheltered childhood. My guess is because I was the girl. I had to come straight home from school. Most of my time was spent alone in my bedroom or in the fenced in back yard. Those two places were where I felt safe. I studied a lot, played with my dolls and stuffed animals and pretended they were family. I couldn’t play sports, be in girl scouts or get involved in after-school activities. Oddly enough, my brothers were able to do all of those things and then some.
My brothers thought I was spoiled because of what my Dad did for me. To this day, they will never understand why I am not. They will never understand what went on at home when they weren’t there. My Dad saved me. He understood what happened. He was the only one who could. Dad saw it on my face and heard it in my voice. Every day after dinner, he’d go to the store and take me with him. For a brief moment, he got me out of the prison. He would take me with him on construction work side jobs. He put a bamboo fishing pole in my hands around the age of three and a few years later, we started our Father’s Day trips to Buckroe Beach or Nags Head Pier. Where we went depended on the mood at home. If the mood was good, we’d go to Buckroe. If it was bad, we’d go to Nags Head.
My brothers thought I was spoiled because Dad got me a hand me down car after I got my driver’s license. It wasn’t because I was spoiled. He did it to free me. That car got me to an afterschool job. That car got me involved in school activities. That car got me out of the torment, at least for a little while. Even though he hated to see me go, Dad encouraged me to go away to college. He knew I needed to find a way to get away.
My Dad loved me. He tried to protect me as much as he could with the limited resources he had. He did all he could until he left this earth. He loved me so much that he had to die on my birthday, another day that we will share for eternity. I’m still not sure if I’m happy or sad for that but every birthday now is a flashback to hearing my phone ring in the early hours of my 27th birthday and hearing “your dad had a heart attack.” I now have a constant memory of sitting outside the funeral home that same night because I didn’t want to see my dead father on my birthday. He was my superhero and on this day, he left me alone, unprotected. That was the only time I ever got mad at him.
I am not a mother. I can’t be one. I’ve heard that you become the mother that raised you. Maybe that’s why I can’t be a mother and even though it saves me from some pain, it still hurts. I love and adore children. They are beautiful little people with incredible spirit and love, more than most adults I know. I sometimes wonder if this is a reason why I became an elementary school teacher, a children/youth minster and a chaplain. As much as I love and care for children, those times of teaching and ministering helped me to see I could have broken the cycle and been the mother I never had. I will never know.
A few people were quite critical and angry of my Mother’s Day blog post, asking churches not to celebrate it. A small portion of my reasoning is due to what is written here. My childhood showed me what motherhood was and still is based on behavior from this past Christmas. I can’t celebrate pain. However, this is not just about me. I am also speaking for the millions of women who can’t have children and are treated as less of a woman because of it. Those that were critical said, “You can’t understand the importance of Mother’s Day because you aren’t a mother.” Yes, you are right. Remember though, you will never be able to understand what I am feeling (and many others in the congregation) because you are.
I was also speaking for the many fathers sitting in the congregation who know mothers will get more recognition than Dads will. Yesterday on my Facebook page, I wrote, “I pray that churches will recognize and celebrate fathers with the same excitement and fanfare they celebrated mothers. Fathers sacrifice too.” Some thought I was being contradictory between mothers and fathers. I wasn’t. I want to be sure if mothers are going to be recognized, fathers need to be too. You see my father saved my life. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today. Some may regret that today but most days, I don’t. Because of him, I knew what a father’s love felt like. I knew what a parent’s love really meant. I knew what sacrifice was. I saw what it meant to be called “Dad” and if we are going to honor one parent, we certainly need to honor both because Dads deserve it too.
Because of my Dad, I went away to college, found Christ and learned about my Heavenly Father’s love too. Both taught me about sacrifice, security and unconditional love. God is the father I miss and the mother I never had.
No, I don’t understand loving mothers and you will never be able to understand me. What I do understand is God sacrificed more than any of us will ever be able to know and He still loves us all just the same.
Despite who we want to honor as our parents, we all have a Heavenly Parent who watches over us. You and I are brothers and sisters because of what was sacrificed for you and me. Our Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Mother, whichever one we look to God to be, let that be the very One we celebrate today and every day. I think that’s the One who deserves it. Don’t you?