Posts in Dad Stories

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21v4

My dad died yesterday.

And today I am sad. Not despairing, not grief-stricken, not angry that life isn’t what I wish it was. Just sad.

And I feel a little spoiled in my sadness because I am fully aware that what I lost is so much more than most of you have ever had. 

And mind you, I have not lost my father. Because in the early 70’s at a church in California, my dad changed the course of our lives by becoming a follower of Jesus. And now he’s followed Him right up close into His presence, the place I’ll go someday too.

No, I haven’t lost Dad, but I have lost his presence with me.

He’s not here this morning having coffee with cream and two scoops of sugar, talking about what I want to talk about: because that’s what good dad’s do.

And I wish, oh how I wish, that each of you had a dad like mine.

I grieve for you with the Father because He wishes that too. And if you’ll indulge me just a bit, can I tell you about good dads?

Here’s a list:

1.  Good dads fix things. My dad fixed my broken hair dryer, my flat tire, my inadequate study habits, my teenage drama with my mom. He made life right for me when I couldn’t turn myself right side up. And even though I told him over and over, I don’t think he ever thought any of that was a big deal. Just dad stuff.

2.  Good dads get it. My dad certainly did. He got that I was different, would always be different, and that difference was okay by him. A contemplative feeler, ponderer, thinker, reader in a family of highly competitive task oriented doers. He normalized me to my “lets-get-to-it!” mom and paved the way for us to become friends. Because of him we grieve together without tension.

3.  Good dads are present.My father was a brainiac nuclear engineer. Yet he bought cowboy boots when he helped me achieve my dream of having a horse. He learned the lingo: palominos, bits and tie downs, dressage and hoof rot. And I don’t think he actually ever did like that whole equine world, but the truth is, wild horses couldn’t have pulled him from being part of it with me.

4.  Good dads stay faithful. My dad did. In good times and bad, he chose to love my mom and to eschew the “grass is greener” temptation to find happiness elsewhere. As long as I can remember, Dad did his level best to love mom well. Dad would have been appalled at any suggestion otherwise.

5.  Good dads take care of their own. When he married my mom he was a 19 year old with one goal: to never be poor again. With that in mind he put himself through college, poured himself into his career, lived beneath his income always so that he could give us what we needed. At the same time, his aversion to the risk of credit and the flash of status spending kept all of us grounded in fiscal reality. He bought his jeans at Walmart and his cars used even when he could have afforded much more. He was fiddling with his finances the day before he died, just to be sure mom would be well cared for.

6.  Good dads provide safety. My sister’s words to me this morning: “We had a great dad. He made me feel safe…” He did. And I’m not even sure how he did it, though I’m going to think long and hard about that. But mostly I think he was just good and a good man becomes a safe place for his family.

There’s more of course, but this day demands my attention and so I’ll end here for now. Somehow just writing these words helps me to understand why I’m sad today and why that’s okay.

I miss my dad already. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life. And then… my real Father will wipe away every tear and I’ll join my dad in spending the rest of forever in awe of Him.

Waiting with honest eagerness for that Day…

From my heart,


P.S. Thank you to the many of you who have already emailed and texted your heart-felt condolences. I’m relishing every word, drinking in your kindness.



DAD STORIES: memories from a man who got it right

I’ve told you about my dad— how, without actually meaning to, he’s shaped my faith in God.

(my daughter, Rebekah and my dad)

My dad has shown me in his own way— in his way with me, how the Father is.

How He loves…

How He welcomes…

How He wants to be with me on those early, intimate mornings.

Because of Dad, trusting God has been, if not exactly easy, at least simple for me.

One night, many years ago, when my old nemesis, Fear, started to choke the joy out of my daily life, the memories of my dad’s way with me broke those chains…

It was late and I lay in bed wide-awake. Alone and afraid.

My husband traveled as a part of his job in those days, sometimes for weeks at a time. On this night he was an ocean way, unavailable, unreachable, unable to calm me down or cheer me up. I’d suffered the insomnia of fear every night he was gone.

Too exhausted to sleep, too afraid to allow myself to rest, my façade of courage was crumbling.

My fear teetered towards terror.

A deaf woman alone at night with three children sleeping blithely in their bedrooms— every possibility presenting itself in colored array as I desperately prayed those demons away.

What if someone breaks in the house? Would I hear them? No.

What if there’s a fire? Would I hear the alarm? No.

What if someone big and mean and bad comes barging in the front door… no, no, no!

I can’t hear! I can’t protect my children! I can’t be safe!

I sat awake, hearing aids at full volume, baseball bat at hand.

I prayed, of course. 

Desperate liturgies for protection: for angels, for hedges, for walls and warriors to watch over me.

And I laugh a little now, but at the time, that helplessness felt immensely more real than any assurances of the safety of my neighborhood or the ridiculousness of my fears.

Yet still…in spite of the unreasonableness of my angst, God brought Himself into my runaway fears.

Instead of scoffing: You’re a grown-up, Di, get over it!

Instead of shame: Where’s your faith?

Instead of platitudes: Angels are watching over you…

He reminded me of my dad.

Every night when I was growing up, my dad walked through our house just before going to bed. He checked doors, turned down the heater, closed windows, peeked in on each of us kids.

Making the rounds like a night watchman.

Making sure I was safe.

Making me feel safe.

Never once, in all my years at home did I beg Dad to take care of me. I didn’t plead for protection from the invisible bad guys. Didn’t remind him to lock up. Didn’t keep a baseball bat close just in case.


I didn’t need to ask for protection because I slept close to my protector.

God, I realized, is just like my dad!

In fact, I began to suspect that all my begging might be an insult to Him. Of course He’s watching over me! 

Instead of desperate rituals of praying for angels to surround me, instead of walking through every worry, and making sure He knew all about how He should handle it, and why, and what I wanted Him to do…

Maybe I should just thank Him for all the nights He’d watched over me.

Just like Dad.

Years and years and decades of nights. No bad guys, no break-ins, no monsters under the bed.

Just my great big God watching over me while I slept.

I drifted off to sleep that night whispering thanks.

And every night after that, whenever the reality of being a deaf woman alone started to feel unsafe, whenever fear threated to keep me up, I felt that grip of safe assurance— of my Father being just like my dad—steady, dependable, present.

He loved me… just like Dad.

He was up to the task of taking care of me… just like Dad.

I could practically feel Him locking up tight, making the rounds, checking in to be sure I was okay… just like my Dad.

My dad spent all my growing up years watching over me. Sometimes in simple ways like locking up at night. Sometimes in harder-to-swallow ways like restricting my freedom lest my naivete leave me unprotected.

I wasn’t always grateful. I didn’t always understand. I wasn’t always nice about not understanding. In fact, he could tell you stories about me not being nice or grateful or understanding…

But that didn’t stop him.

Because my dad cared enough to take care of me… and so does my Father.

From my heart,



1.    He watched over me.

2.    He was there— down the hall, next to mom, no matter what.

3.    He didn’t mock my fears.

4.    He kept watching over me even when I didn’t think I needed him.

5.    He showed me what the Father is like.


P.S. Have you learned some things about the Father from your dad? Can you tell us what?

Or are you just now learning that the Father is different than the way your dad was to you? That He loves in a way your dad was not able to love?

DAD STORIES: memories of a man who got it right

(photo by Bethany Small)

Back when I was high school during the now-vintage era of the 70’s, computers were monstrous machines. They were housed in massive buildings, attended by men in white lab coats and thick glasses. No home computers, no laptops.

As students, we wrote our essays and term papers on typewriters— the electric kind if we were lucky.  Usually by hand first, then plucked out laboriously on the machine, slow and careful lest we hit the wrong key, leaving a permanent imprint on the perfect white paper.  Most teachers allowed no more than 3 errors per page.

My dad allowed no errors. A typo was a mistake. Why wouldn’t I aim for perfection?

Dad was not normally a tyrant, but he knew me well. Papers were my ticket to the grades he knew I could get but wouldn’t if I didn’t use my strengths. And tests were not my strength. My befuddled mind just wouldn’t grasp such unimportant details as dates— Was that signed in 1776? Or was it 1667?

But assign me to write a story about what life may have been like back whenever-it-was, and I’d bump those grades back up to where they belonged.

How many hormonal implosions did I unleash on poor dad when he red-marked my papers? And believe me, I could implode with the best of them! Drama and you-don’t-love-me and no-one-else’s-parents-torment-their-kids-like-this!

But nothing moved the man.  Instead, he calmly waited out the storm and told me, Good job, you’re getting it. Now do it again. 

And so I did. Until I got it right. Until it was good-grade worthy and I could hand it back to my dad to see his smile and that slightest nod that meant more than my name in lights.

Stretch back a few more years. We lived in Germany, in a small hamlet surrounded by fields and forests. A magical place. Dreamer that I was (and am) I remember all the wild and wonderful imaginings as I stared out my bedroom window at the castle one town away.

But on Saturdays I had to unstick my head from the clouds and do chores. Dusting, emptying garbage, wiping windows and cleaning the car— a tiny Opel sedan that carted our family of five all over Europe during the days we lived there.

Back then cars had windows that locked by pushing a small lever that looked like a golf ball tee. But when ten-year-old hands washed the inside of the Opel’s windows, that tee inevitably got in the way, leaving fingerprints unwiped. And Dad just marched me back to do it again. After all, he’d paid a whole dime for the job!

And do you know what? I still get in the corners. And I still proofread and correct over and over again, wanting to get it right, all the way right.

Because my dad taught me that details make the difference. Whether writing a paper or a book, or washing windows or making friends— details matter.

Was Dad picky? Yeah, a little.

Was Dad unreasonable? Never.

Did I respond well to his insistence on doing things well and right? Uh… hardly ever.

Am I glad he did? Absolutely! So very thankful that he instilled in me a sense of honor about work and pride in doing it well.

And do you know what? I really don’t think that Dad cared all that much about finger smudges on windows. I doubt he enjoyed reading my clunky papers about dinosaurs or the history of the printing press.

I think he just cared about me. He loved me enough to uproot my natural laziness and make me uncomfortable with less-than.

He wanted me to know the satisfaction of a job well done, of life done well.

And he was willing to do what he needed to until I got it right all on my own.

Thank-you Dad, I’m so glad you did.

From my heart,


Six Things My Dad Got Right:

  1. He had values of his own that he determined to instill in me.
  2. He was nice (mostly) about it.
  3. He didn’t let my whining and wailing cause him to slack off.
  4. He taught me to focus on my strengths.
  5. He told me what my strengths were— out loud and often.
  6. He kept at it even when his job demanded his attention.

P.S. Right now my dad is very, very ill. Would you pray with me for him? I leave in a few days to go to be with my parents at their home in the Sierras. Knowing you're praying would make all the difference to me. And if these Dad Stories have helped, will you leave a comment? It would bring me great  joy to bring him stories of how his own story is influencing yours.Thank you.

You can see previous DAD STORIES here.

DAD STORIES: memories of a man who got it right


The sun sleeps, tucked in tight, as I write these words, still too early on a winter’s morn to rise and melt the frost from the ground. In the dark my family slumbers on, wrapped in the downy warmth of dreams, serenely oblivious to the stresses that will rise with the dawn.

I am wide awake. Teapot half empty, my mind fills with rumblings of ideas. Words catch my listening ears in the stillness. Words from a Father who speaks in the silence.

I have always loved these earliest morning hours. On the rare times when I awake to others already awake, I feel the loss, the disappointment— as if I’ve missed the mystical magic of the morning.

And I know why…

Every morning when I was growing up, my dad got up first. Quietly, he’d patter down the stairs, plug in the coffee pot filled with Folgers the night before. While the perking and burbling filled the kitchen, scents drifted to my bedroom at the top of the stairs. And up he’d come.

Every morning.

“Di, it’s time to wake up.” He’d nudge my shoulder while I pretended to sleep. “Honey, wake up, it’s time…” the allure of sweetened coffee surrounding him like priceless perfume.

Eyes open now, my first glimpse of every day was him. My father: gentle, firm, kind, in control.

Every morning.

And I wake the same way still. Gently, sensing something, someone. Happy, ready, wanting to wake up, I rise as if my dad were hovering close with kind urgings to meet my day. A smile.

How many mornings have I sensed the Father’s breath on my face, His invitation to come, to meet Him before my world awakes? Just like my dad.

Come and be with Me.

And I do.

Far away, high in the mountains he loves, my dad is awake too. Wrapped in his plaid robe, slippers on, hair all ajumble. He’s got the coffee going, a light by his chair. He watches the sun rise, filling the silence with his own thoughts. Plans and hopes for the day ahead.

And I wonder, Dad, do you remember? A little girl, grown now, with wrinkles of her own. Did you know then that you were ushering me into the magic of the morning? Did you sense my need to be with you first? To share the quiet?

Or was it the Father of us both who knew? That one day I’d want these mornings with Him. That in the quiet I’d hear. That I’d need to get up early and He could make me want to by giving me a dad to love me this way.

My dad wasn’t perfect, of course not. But he made perfect mornings for me and he did it by just being himself… and by letting me be with him… and making me want to.

The sun is up now, the teapot empty. And I linger a while, my heart overflowing with memories of a childhood marked by joy. I wish, oh how I wish, that every child could say the same…

… and that alarm clocks would fade out of fashion… because of dad’s like mine.

From my heart,


5 Things My Dad Did Right:

  1. He knew my need for a gentle touch.
  2. He stayed the same, guaranteeing the security everyday sameness brings.
  3. He didn’t let the stresses of his job interfere with quiet mornings.
  4. He instilled in me the habit of preparing for the day ahead rather than flinging haphazardly into the fray.
  5. He showed me the way of the Father without saying a word.



DAD STORIES: memories of a man who did it right

(my dad in Haiti)

All my life I’ve watched my father take care of his health.

Every morning of my high school years I woke up to strange sounds coming from the room where my dad worked out. I’d round the corner bleary eyed from sleep to watch him do his Canadian Air force exercise routine.

Squats and jumping jacks and funny sliding motions against the wall.  He’d grunt his way through all sorts of sit ups— side ways, legs in the air, one arm, two.

(hiking in Yosemite)

Way past the age when most men seem glued to their leather recliner, my dad hiked and skied and backpacked with a group of friends in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada’s. He ran 10k’s until just a couple of years ago when his hip finally wore out from the miles he pounded on asphalt paths.

(building his home in the mountains)

I expected him to live forever.

But a while ago he started coughing. A lot.

Turns out he has a dreadful disease that will slowly lock up his lungs, making it harder and harder to draw in that life giving oxygen he needs to stay strong and active.

But once again, my dad is doing it right.

And watching him, listening to the way he embraces life and just keeps plowing forward, fixing everything broken in his path…

(loving children in Haiti)

I feel like I’m learning life at the graduate level from the best.

Who knew that a daughter could learn about living while watching her father slowly ease towards dying?

Does every father teach like this?

Squeezing out all the life he can while he can in order to leave a legacy of hope to the next generation? 

Somehow I think my dad is just getting it right again.

And that’s why I plan to keep learning from him, and remembering what he taught by being who he is.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

I love you,


Things My Dad Did Right:

  1. He taught me the importance of taking keeping our bodies fit so we could have fun doing outdoor things.
  2. He taught me to never burden anyone by complaining.
  3. He ate raw veggies before vegan was even a word.
  4. He took me on hikes all over the Sierra Nevada’s.
  5. He taught me to fix whatever I can and to leave the rest alone.
  6. He’s teaching me how to live well right up until its time to die.


DAD STORIES... memories of a man who got it right


Growing up, I was an awkward girl.

Stocky and shy in an era of willow thin Twiggy and man-eating aggressiveness.

I should have been born on the praire- bumping along the back of a covered wagon with a bonnet to hide my too-much hair and gingham dresses to cover my too- thick calves.

My mom let it slip in one of those adult conversations that the kids aren’t supposed to hear, that I was built like my Grandma Waterman.

No woman in the world wants to be shaped like my Grandma Waterman.

She was… thick. And strong. And old.

I wanted to look like my Grandma Stewart, who had tiny ankles and skinny legs and wore a Dolly Parton sized brassiere (that’s what nice girls called a bra in those days).

I’ve got to give my mom credit- she tried her best with me.

Wrestling my mass of stick straight hair into a double ponytail at the top of my head each school day morning, making bows and home-sewn dresses to make me look cuter than I was.

She tried valiantly to steer me from styles that I loved but looked ridiculous in. Things like go-go boots and white fur coats.

She tried, she really did.

And she knew that ugly ducklings eventually grow into, if not graceful swans, at least decent ducks.

But my Dad looked at me from behind his thick-rimmed glasses and saw something no one else did.

He saw beauty.

I remember getting ready on a Sunday morning and coming out to the living room to wait for my family to go to church. My dad was there, loading his favorite 33’s into his treasured multi-player record player.

Burt Bacharach, Glenn Campbell, Johnny Cash, Glenn Miller.

He took one look at his decidedly less than lovely little girl and held out his hand. Without a word, my dad swung me into his arms and taught me to dance.

Or at least he tried to teach me to dance. But my feet kept getting in the way of his and I couldn’t seem to stop falling and giggling and getting it wrong.

So awkward.

So not what I wanted to be.

That’s when my dad did what every dad of every awkward little girl ought to do—

He let me dance on his feet.

Not because my feet wouldn’t go where they were supposed to, but on purpose.

Dad just lifted me onto his feet and proceeded to dance me around the room. And I felt like a princess— like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Lauren all wrapped up in a little girl moment.

My Dad made me beautiful when I didn’t know how and couldn’t be and wasn’t.

And he kept it up for years and years of far-from-beautiful awkwardness.

When he paid for ballet lessons to see if maybe someone could teach me to walk a little less like a boot clomping farm boy. And when he graciously let me quit because the lovely ballerina teacher shook her head in sad dismay.

And when he bought me just-right riding breeches and elegant long boots and paid for me to try to sit the back of a horse without falling in the mud.

And then kept paying and kept watching me ride and kept taking me to buy books about horses and listening to me chatter endlessly about bits and bridles and Morgans and Arabians.

He made me feel beautiful when the mirror told a different story.

I remember once overhearing him tell my mom that I looked like his sister. My heart about stopped.

Oh my gosh!

My Aunt Carol was gorgeous! As in stunningly-glamorous-Hollywood-worthy-gorgeous.

She had that very much in style in the late 60’s red bouffant hair… mine was brown and straight and growing in places it shouldn’t.

Her eyes were crystal blue- almost transparent and so big they dominated her sculptured face. Mine were brown and boring and topped by bushy eyebrows.

And she dressed like a beauty queen. Flamboyant and elegant and always perfect.

I wanted to look just like her. I wanted to be beautiful and elegant and sophisticated.

My dad thought I did and that I was and that someday I would be.

And I believed him.

Now sometimes I’ll see a girl like I was— just a little too hairy and awkward and shy and embarrassed.

And I’ll remember how I felt inside when my dad told a different story. And how I believed him because, after all, dads know more than daughters at that age.

I wish every one of those little girls had a dad like mine. A dad who would redefine beauty to match the mirror.

A dad who called brown eyes hazel and stubby noses adorable. Who thought my legs looked longer in riding boots and made sure I had the confidence to think so too.


every girl ever born wants to be a Beauty

and every dad of every daughter has the power to make her believe she is.

From my heart,



  1. He told me, all my life, that I was beautiful.
  2. He paid attention to me.
  3. He bought me riding boots.
  4. He saw something no one else could have possibly seen.
  5. He told my mom what he saw.
  6. When I couldn’t be who I wanted to be, he let me dance on his feet.




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.
DAD STORIES... memories of a man who got it right

Seventeen and Sinking Fast


The summer I turned seventeen I hit a low point. No longer a darling little girl whose shyness could be explained away with a smile and an excuse, my social angst kept me chained to passivity. Add to that a curious mixture of perfectionism and an almost phobic fear of working too hard (I think that’s actually called laziness), and its no wonder my report card was less than impressive.

I carried that folded piece of card stock to my room, hid it where mom wouldn’t take a peek, and waited with dread for my dad to come home.

Deep dread.

My dad, you see, expected more from me. A whole lot more.

Somehow he’d gotten this notion into his head that I was smart. I still don’t understand why he was so sure of this up-to-that-point unverified theory. Me, smart? Sure, I could read far and away above my grade level, but most of my reading consisted of either horse books or adventure stories. Not exactly the stuff of Pulitzer prizes. And math- Dad’s favorite subject- was my worst enemy. I’m still convinced my Algebra teacher’s C+ was his way of kicking me out of his class lest he have to endure another year of my woeful whimpering, “But I just don’t understand…”

But Dad saw something inside that fair-haired head of mine and he was determined that I use it well.

Thus the angst.

This report card was a reliable barometer of just how well my scholastic life was proceeding. And how hard I was trying when my patient father wiped my tears after a math assignment and told me to “just do your best.” My best that year included skipping classes after lunch (you guessed it, Algebra) and not even attempting that American history research project that was required for any grade above a C.

While I waited for my always punctual, ever-predictable father to pull into the garage and make his way upstairs, I imagined every possible scenario. Would he yell at me? Rummage through the boxes in the attic and dust off that well-worn paddle I hadn’t felt since grade school?  Ground me from life?

I’d told my best friend in no uncertain terms, that my father was going to kill me.

But that’s not exactly what happened.

When I handed him that report card he got real quiet. Just sort of still, like he wasn’t there in that moment, like I’d lost him to somewhere far away. I think he forgot I was standing there, shaking, a chip on my shoulder so big I could hardly hold it up.

And then he sat down on the side of the bed... slumped a little... sighed.

When he finally looked at me with a look of defeat on his face that chip came crashing to the floor, taking all my excuses with it.

My dad was disappointed in me.

Not furious, not disgusted, not even a hint of impatience. He was just sad. So very sad.

I’d let him down. I’d let me down, and he didn’t know what to do.

We didn’t talk much after that, as I remember. What could I say? Sorry Dad, I’ll try harder next year? The fact was, I couldn’t try harder, didn’t have the courage, or the drive, or whatever it takes to succeed at such a thing as school. And he knew it, and that’s what made his shoulders sag and his eyes fill.

He must have said something to mom because she never so much as uttered a word of reproof to me. And I wasn’t about to bring it up, no, I tip-toed around the subject of school as if the summer would go on forever and my senior year wasn’t looming like a storm on the horizon.

That summer I’d taken a job flipping burgers at an amusement park called Frontier Village. My uniform was a ghastly combination of red and white stripes and bows and funky converse high tops. Every day I did the same thing: pull frozen patties from the deep freeze, load hotdogs into the steamer, hand out change, pour ketchup and mayonnaise and relish into stainless steel trays.  And every night I came home smelling of grease and salt and deep-fried onion rings.

I hated that job.

But my dad loved it! At least once or twice a week he’d exchange his wingtips for cowboy boots, pay the price of admission, and sit down to eat what he proclaimed was “the best burger I’ve ever tasted!”

All summer he bragged about my burger flipping capabilities. In fact, all summer my dad bragged about me. A lot. At the supper table he’d tell my skeptical older brother what a valuable addition I was to the lofty corporation of Frontier Village. Then he’d try to impress my little sister that I was by far the best looking girl who’d ever worked there.

He spent the summer convincing me that I was indeed the smartest, most capable, invaluable employee on the roster of that little amusement park. At his urging, I tried to get to my job just a little early every morning. Then I’d stay a few minutes late, wiping those counters down one last time. I’d greet the boss by looking him in the eye- after all, Dad said I was one of the elite, and I was starting to believe it.

By the end of that summer I strode a little straighter into my last year of high school. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to look my teachers in the eye, to stay and talk about assignments and up coming tests.

I was interested.

I was capable.

I was smart.

I believed I could succeed because Dad believed in me.

I still don’t know how my dad knew what to do that day I handed him my inadequacies. He never let me in on his secret source of wisdom. We didn’t talk about those kinds of things, he and I. Our conversations were about the here and now, not philosophies and ideas.

Yet I knew he knew and he knew I did too.

And somehow I think that when Dad retreated into that silence pause, he was talking to the One who’d carefully crafted and placed me in my father’s care. I think he was asking that Father for wisdom for his wandering girl. And I think he got it.

From my heart,


10 things Dad did right:

  1. He saw something no one else did— potential.
  2. He communicated to me what he saw in specific, daily doses.
  3. He restrained his response to my failure.
  4. He went out of his way to show interest in my life.
  5. He inconvenienced himself to involve himself in my life.
  6. He ate my hamburgers!
  7. He assumed I wanted to do well when everything about me screamed defeat.
  8. He praised me in front of the rest of the family.
  9. He redefined my image of who I was.
  10. He loved me anyway.
Dad StoriesIntentional Parents