I laughed, because – in reality – my husband is anything but a handy man. His home repairs take years – and often professional intervention – to complete. I looked into my living room, where he’s currently on week three of a painting project.
But Lucy doesn’t care if the walls are painted, if the garage is organized, or if the garden is weeded. She just knows that her daddy loves her and will do anything to make her happy – and that includes dressing like a princess because it’s what she wants.
Lucy is certain that her daddy will catch her when she falls. That he will right any wrong. That she is safe in his arms.
I understand how she feels, because I feel the same way about my dad.
Dad wasn’t around a lot when I was a little girl – he was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, then a post-graduate student pursuing a Ph.D., then a clinical psychologist building his practice. When he was at home, he wasn’t exactly my play mate. My father is a bit too serious for kid’s games.
But he was there when it mattered.
Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, but it is steady. Both of us are stubborn, and we definitely have butted heads. Dad set the rules, and I did my best to challenge them. As I grew from a child to an adult, I tested his patience, and he tried my nerves. But I never once questioned how much he loved me.
I still believe that my dad can fix almost anything.
I’m 39 years old now, have been married for almost 15 years, and have had three children of my own. Sometimes I feel like I’m too dependent on my father’s advice and intervention. That, maybe, I should be more self-sufficient. That I need to leap without relying on the safety net he provides. Because some day that net simply will cease to be there.
Two of my closest friends recently lost their dads to cancer – one of them just this week. Both said the same thing to me – that they also have lost their sense of safety. The one person on whom they could most depend was now gone. My heart breaks for my friends.
Because, just like theirs, my father provided the foundation on which I built my life. Without him, I fear I would crumble. Steadfast and certain, my dad always has been there to hold me up when hardship threatened to bring me down.
In 2009, my son Andy died. He had a severe form of a neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy. We lost him four days before his five month birthday. My dad was in the room when Andy took his last breath.
As hard as he tried, Dad couldn’t save Andy – no one could. And, my broken heart was the one thing that my dad couldn’t fix.
But he didn’t leave my side, and he didn’t break down in front of me. He stayed strong, handling the details no one else could face.
And, as always, I followed his lead. My father gave me the strength to keep moving forward. With his help, I pulled myself out of the depths of depression. With his support, my husband and I dug out of medical debt and found stable ground. With his encouragement, we braved the odds and rebuilt our family.
When I was expecting Lucy, Dad was the first person I called upon learning that she was healthy. He was there in the hospital on the soul-healing day that she was born. And, Dad was one of the first people to hold Will – who, in fact, looks just like him.
Today, Dad will be there with me at the memorial service as I say goodbye to my friend’s father. Once again, I will lean on him for strength. And, I know he won’t let me fall.
Dad, I don’t say it enough, but I love you. Thank you for keeping me safe.