DAD STORIES: memories of a man who got it right


Christmas at our house was never a low-key affair.

My mom set the stage by decorating every nook and cranny of our home. By melting our crayons in a coffee can over the stove, she made candles that looked like chimneys with Santa peeking down. She poked beaded pins in soap and embroidered all of our favorite things on stockings. On mine, a library of books, ice skates, flowers. On my brother’s, soccer balls, baseballs, basketballs…

And she baked. Oh how she baked! No need for scented candles in our home- we had the real thing! Apple strudel, cookies galore, the best sweet rolls in the entire universe… Mom filled our home with all the delights of the season.

But it was Dad who gave me my favorite gift ever.

One year when I was 6 or 7 I was banned from the garage for the entire month of December. If I even got close to that door outside, I’d be inundated with warnings and wagging fingers— threatened with all manner of evil if I dared peek.

Every night, my dad came home from his job at G.E., sat on the edge of his bed to trade his wingtips for work boots, grabbed a taste or two from mom’s busy kitchen, and headed for the garage.

For the next few hours I’d hear pounding and whirring and swooshing on the other side of the forbidden door. No amount of begging or cajoling elicited so much as a hint of what was taking place out there.

But I knew it was for me.

And something about that knowing opened up a space in my heart that still echos with the sounds of significance. My dad was making something for me.

On Christmas Eve I could hardly sleep. I couldn’t imagine what might be out there in Dad’s garage turned workshop. When the time finally came for the three D’s (David, Diane, and Darnice) to parade into the family room, I caught my breath in wonder.

The most magnificent Barbie dollhouse I’d ever seen!

Three stories tall, with a light up stove, carpet and curtains, a soaring veranda and cathedral ceilings— and the crowning piece: an elevator!

I don’t remember much more about that day, but the rest of my childhood years were spent kneeling in front of that structure, pretending to be Barbie.

I was an international stewardess with a fine suit and cocky hat. I was the belle of the ball in my sweeping gown of emerald damask. I married G.I. Joe on the veranda and drove my pink sports car into the garage.

Bliss and beauty defined my worth.

My dad has made me many things over the years: a kitchen set with red coffee lids for burners and switches and lights and buttons to push. Shelves for knickknacks, a playhouse for my kids.

On my 30th birthday he made me a beautiful bookshelf as if to say, “I know you, Diane, and I like who you are.”

And on my 50th, he crafted a writing desk out of thick pine planks and marked it with this message: To my daughter, Di…


And with everything he’s crafted just for me, a message has been sent:

You matter to me.

I know you and like you and enjoy who you are.

And I’ve carried that message with me through all the ups and downs of life in this sometimes less than encouraging world. Through my awkwardly unfeminine transition from girlhood into womanliness. While I was figuring out what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. When I’ve been rejected by the status quo and misunderstood by those who ought to know me better.

Through it all, the theme my dad engraved on my life has pulled me through.

And what’s more, somewhere along the way I discovered another Father with the same heart. A Father just like my dad, who cherishes who I am and delights my days with gifts carved out of His creation just for me.

My dad led me to my Father. And he did it just by loving me well.

From a grateful heart made strong by a father’s love,


Nine Things My Dad Did Right:

  1. He paid attention to what made me tick.
  2. He saw the me no one else saw.
  3. He accepted me for who I was without trying to change me.
  4. He believed in me.
  5. He showed me how much he loved me.
  6. He brought his own interests and gifts into my world.
  7. He taught me the value of excellence by producing beauty.
  8. He stamped stand-alone strength into my character by applauding my value.
  9. He let me be me.