Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy 18th Birthday Daisy

“Oh the happiest day I have ever known
Was the day you took your first breath.
And to watch you grow in the warmth of the sun,
Is the only other wish I could ever have.
But if cold night winds should begin to howl
And if trouble should come your way,
Remember these words I’m telling you now
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.

Rain will fall, as it surely must,
On the heads of the wicked, and the just.
God forbid that rain turn your dreams to rust.
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name

On that bittersweet day many years from now
When you take your first steps on your own.
Remember this, my precious child,
As much as I’ve loved you,
There is One who loves you more.
So if cold night winds should begin to howl
And if trouble should come your way,
May the warmth of the sun, comfort and guide you,
May those cold night winds stay forever behind you
If you lose your way
Know that God will find you…
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.

                                  -Rick Elias
                           “For My Children”


Today, my daughter Morgan turns eighteen.
Eighteen years ago –tonight at Ten p.m. to be exact- my precious daughter came silently into this world.
Her entrance was silent…no crying, no distress. She was the quiet baby and she is a quiet adult now. But her impact on my life was as loud and as forceful and as brilliant as the Mummer’s Parade on New Years.
Everything they tell you about a baby changing your life is true…and none of it is.
I never saw her as an inconvenience. I never calculated what I could have been doing or might have done had I not become a dad. I never thought about the extra hockey games or the extra golf or the travel or whatever. I am a dad. I was born to be a dad and I have only found my happiness since that wondrous night, May 7, 1998.
It was chaotic and hectic and amazing.
She was perfect.
She calls herself “Daisy” because she doesn’t like her given name. 
I swallowed hard at that for a while, but if that’s the only headache she gives me I’m fine with it. She really is a Daisy anyway. She’s bright and lively and she adds color to the meadows of the world.
But she’s not a little girl anymore.
It went by so quickly, these eighteen years. Being divorced from her mom when she was only eighteen months only hastened the arrival of this day. When you see your child once a week and every other weekend, you miss more than you see. I missed as little as possible. I took days each week to eat lunch with her at school so I’d have those extra 3o minutes. I was in the mortgage industry then and I had the flexibility. I learned a silly magic trick every few weeks to entertain her friends at the lunch table. They thought I was the best dad ever. I sat there –all 6’ 4” of me- hunched in the tiny cafeteria tables at Park Avenue Christian School where she went to Kindergarten, or at Westmeade Elementary, and I looked like Shrek amongst those tiny little people. Those were some of the best days of my life.
She suffered terribly because of the divorce. In many ways she still does.
She suffered more because I refused to allow myself to find happiness again. I didn’t realize this until a year ago or so. 
I realized that I felt so bad for how much she was hurting over the divorce –a divorce I did not cause or want- that I felt guilty inside every time I thought about entering a relationship and going on with life.
I would literally think to myself “My daughter is unhappy, what right do I have to be happy?” I thought that her having me all to herself was better than her having to share me with someone else, the way she had to share her mom. I was so wrong.
I thought about how, if I remarried, I’d probably wind up with someone with children, because that was the age I was then. I felt guilty because I would have been spending more time with someone else’s children than I did with my own.
And so I stayed alone and tried to be devoted to her. I was so wrong about that. I denied her an alternative to the horrors that soon revealed themselves after her mom had been married for a year or so. I denied her the chance to see her dad love someone, to see what that looks like and to use it as a standard. I denied her the chance to see someone love her dad too. The only archetype for marriage she has is terrible, because I didn’t give her an alternative view.
She endured my homelessness. The nights I couldn’t come get her when her mom’s husband was on one of his usual benders and was becoming violent. I couldn’t get her when her mom sided with her husband and told her to get out. I remember one night, going to get her at 10 pm because the situation was so bad. We drove to a Waffle House and just sat there for a few hours and ate something and let things cool down. Then I had to take her home. I have no words to describe those days.
She has such a broken family. A grandfather who has never met her and probably never will. A grandmother who is too harmful a person to be around her, whom she has not seen or heard from since she was 7. She has Uncles and Aunts and cousins she loves and loves being a part of, but who she sees far too infrequently. She has two “adopted” sets of grandparents whom she loves as her own flesh and blood, but sees not nearly enough of. (Jewell and Pop are gone now)
When she was little, she was happy and outgoing and joyful. As she got older, and her world grew dark, she retreated into her gifts. She has a magnificent voice. I don’t say that lightly. She is a music major here, and already gaining notice because of the purity and beauty of her voice. Music became her refuge. The thing nobody could take away or damage with their own agenda. Her art is the same. She can draw and create such beauty on paper and media. Beauty that she can’t always –or often- find in the world she lives in now.
I have tried my best to shield her from those hurts and wounds, but I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do. Not entirely anyway.
I wish I had given myself permission to get over the divorce sooner than I did, and to let myself love someone when it still could have impacted my daughter. Not that I wanted to “find her a mom,” but she needed to see that love and marriage and relationship can be wonderful, can be good. She needed to see a real-life second chance, because she…like everyone else on Earth, will need them as she goes through life.
But she is grown now. Eighteen and ready to move to the next adventure. She moves on campus this fall and I pray she finds great friends on her hall and people who can pour in love and healing to the wounds she bears.
I love this young lady more than all my many words will ever reveal. All that I have or ever will have could be burned to ashes if it meant her dreams and hopes would live longer. She is the only arrow in my quiver, and today begins the flights from my bow.
She’ll spend half the summer here and half with her mom. When she comes back, she’ll be in the dorms at Liberty and not my roommate anymore.
I am scared. I am a perfectionist and all I can see are the things I didn’t get right. The mistakes I made. My faults as a dad.
Did I pray enough? Did I live my faith right enough of the time? 
Is she going to be okay?
My dear friend Rick Elias wrote the song that I quoted in this post. He wrote it for his son’s first birthday. I have loved this song and always wished he’d release it.
I trust that if my daughter loses her way she will know that God will find her.
And her dad won’t be far behind.
Happy Birthday Daisy.
All the best things of my life have their genesis in you and in this day eighteen years ago.
I love you more than you will ever know. I am more proud of you than I can possibly show. God has such a plan for your life. You are my beloved daughter…I am very pleased with you. Take flight, my arrow…and don’t ever stop. The world needs the targets you were meant to hit.
I love you,

Daddy





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