Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Being A Dad

     In an essay picked up for recent publication by Honolulu Metro (click here to see), I listed the four best things that ever happened to me: Received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, entrusted everything to Him, got married, and had kids. Only now do I realize that none were merit—based: I didn't do a single thing to deserve any of them, instead having received them all as free gifts—including life, health, and happiness—by the grace of God. It's true what they say that the best things in life can't be bought or earned, they're free.
     I've written much in prior blog essays about the challenges and blessings of being a dad, but here are a few memories that have stuck that I believe are eternal and will live on beyond me and that help define what it means to be a dad to me.
     When Braden was age one-and-a-half, an only child at the time, I was the coolest guy on the planet to him. Never before had I been perceived as such, so it was a heady experience, but one that also filled me with a huge sense of responsibility. I realized this cool factor when I went into the bathroom one night to shower and four, then eight tiny fingers emerged beneath the door—Braden's fingers seeking me out. Over the next few minutes, I touched my fingertips to his to let him know that I was there and wanted to play too. His chuckle on the other side and continued finger pokes confirmed his enjoyment and filled my surging heart with aching joy. 

     Jaren, my youngest at age seven, still gives me chest-to-chest hugs and enjoys it maybe as much as I do. He climbs aboard after our bedtime reading so I can say prayers while stroking his head and back, and upon completion, plant four or five kisses on head, forehead, and/or cheeks. He kisses back but for sub-par ones I say, “What kind of junk kisses were those—no air kisses!” and present my cheek for more, which he obliges with a smile. 
     Pene recently surprised me by giving me a Snoopy stuffed animal for my birthday that she crocheted herself. She and Deanne have been crocheting and knitting scarves, hats, half-sweaters, and jewelry items, but I had no idea anyone would think of making something for me. It came with a home-made card and tag for “The Best Dad” and now sits atop my bedside night stand. 

     Braden, at the age three, loved digging for worms to feed our fighting fish that we received as a gift and kept for a few weeks despite our lease that disallowed pets. We dug behind our apartment or in school fields or parks. At a neighborhood basketball court beneath an overgrown shade tree, he scraped away at the leaves and dried out, hardened topsoil while I supervised exhausted. He looked up at me, and with timid eyes and beseeching voice said, “Play with me, Daddy.” At that, how could I not? Who cared that there was zero chance of finding worms there. It was all about the togetherness—digging at the topsoil together. 
     When Jaren was age five, one of our favorite games to play was “tent”—hiding beneath my bed's quilt and comforter. “It's so dark,” I'd say in mock scary tone to which he'd reply, “It's not that dark.” I'd pretend to fall asleep and snore, until it got too hot and had to throw off the covers. Then I'd pretend to fall asleep and snore—with an arm draped over him. He'd fight to escape—with lots of grunts and moans—and if successful, I'd snort and roll over in my sleep, and drape my other arm over a different part of his body, pretending to snore again. He loved the struggle to escape—especially if I happened to tickle him in my sleep. “Wah? Wha? Wah?” I'd say to end the game as if I had just wakened.
     When Pene was yet a thumb-sucking ten-month-old toddler, she once sat playing toys with all her big-kid relatives on our living room floor while we parents and grand-parents sat around chatting. On sudden impluse, she got up, sighed, walked over to me, and thumb in mouth and free hand to belly button, leaned her head sideways onto my thigh while I stroked her head for comfort. Less than a minute passed and she stood upright, walked back to her toys, and resumed playings just as before. How's that for instant cure?
     And more recently, Pene surprised me when, as a matter of course, I asked her what she learned in school today? She said that in P.E. her substitute teacher had them write an essay about a hero. 
     “Who did you pick?” I asked. 
     “You,” she said with a pleased smile. 
     I thanked her and as my soul soared skyward, asked, “Now, what about this terrific man do you find so heroic?” She smiled and as I sensed hesitation I lifted a hand to halt her and said, “You don't have to answer” and walked to Deanne to inform her of my hero status. She wasn't convinced I deserved it, but that didn't dampen my mood 'cause Pene—one super-perceptive, wise, wunderkind—felt I did, and that was more than enough. Would that all dads get to hear such from a loved one. And may we all deserve it to some degree or other.

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