18 years Ago Today…

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Eighteen years ago today the greatest interruption I’ve ever experienced took place.  I found myself teaching an uplifting Sunday School lesson to an eager group of high schoolers when there was the knock on the door.  “Come quick” was the charge, “your babies are on the way.”  Immediately I dropped everything, leaving the kids to divine care and was off on my way to become a daddy.  I had dreamed of this day for a very long time.

Smiles abounded as I proudly showed off my lovely offspring.  They were wonderful in every sense of the word.  Then came night time.  Getting a newborn baby to sleep is a challenge even under the best of circumstances, hoping for two to sleep is asking for a parting of the sea.  Even with a hefty supply of pacifiers there never seemed to be one when needed.  Many a night did I find myself stealthily crawling under the cribs in search of the elusive pacifier.  Armed with the knowledge that if I didn’t return with the holy grail an outpouring of frustration would soon follow. 

We made it through those early years.  Years of wonder and amazement.  Little Raleigh and Ashton grew lovelier each passing day, each seeking to find their own steps in life.  I remember accidents where Ashton fell off the Jungle Gym and came crying with a waffled tongue.  A sight most parents should avoid.  She healed and soon found herself climbing back aboard without any reservation.  One day Raleigh woke up and had little purple spots on her arm.  After a quick call to the pediatrician, we found ourselves in the same hospital where her life had recently begun.  She was bleeding internally and needed this medicine to stop the flow.  Scary times, but faith sustained us and our little Raleigh came home just like new.  Ashton too, had her visits to the emergency room, childhood asthma periodically roared its ugly head.  Soon she too would hit her stride and leave the maladies behind.

Coming home from work after a long day, I was greeted by two smiling faces at the door.  After parking my truck, the door would burst open and those energetic monsters would rush me in pursuit of a full contact wrestling match.  Laughter, giggles, screams of happiness sounded the time of togetherness.

But theses sounds of joy would soon be replaced with cries of sadness.  The life they knew and loved would be torn from them.  Upheaval of stability would become the norm.  The safety and comfort of family would be no more.  Mommy and Daddy were getting a divorce.  Instead of one big happy family, now these two angels had two unhappy houses to shuttle between. 

Raleigh and Ashton, I reflect on the pain your mom and I caused you.  On the way we put our needs so far out ahead of yours.  I’m sorry we couldn’t be the mommy and daddy you both deserved.  I’m sorry for the sadness that filled your eyes when previously they were so bright and cheerful.  We can never give you back what you missed out on, we can never make those nights alone crying yourself to sleep disappear, and we can never give you back your innocent childhood. 

Finding ones place in life is beyond challenging.  It is a lifelong pursuit.  It encompasses the purpose of our existence, to find the authentic us.  Most people never seek out this aim, instead live lives of frustration and anger.  I had to find my center.  I had to grow up.

This meant moving away and our time together decreased but never faded in depth of value.  We found ways to make travel fun and meaningful.  It was a part of who we were, we where travelers, this is what conjoined us.

Ashton and Raleigh, you grew both in beauty and kindness.  Each of your hearts matured into vessels worthy of honor.  You adapted to your ever changing environment with grace and never melted under the strain.  You were both becoming wonderful young ladies.  I was so proud to be seen with you and have the privilege of sharing you with my friends.

More changes were in store for each of you.  The lingering hope most children carry of one day their divorced parents reconnecting was shattered years later when I informed you of my pending marriage.  It was a difficult time for you both.  Not only were you getting another person in your world, a stepmom, but you also were getting two new sisters as well.  Change is a difficult pill to swallow.  Again you adapted and blossomed.  Your inner strength and resolve has been amazing.

By now each of you were a seasoned airline traveler.  Remember the Polly Pockets?  Each time as you left I gave you both a new one for the trip home.  You must have had quite a collection at one point.  For me, I started to notice your independence when you needed less comforting as you boarded the plane.  You were growing up.  I was both happy and sad at the same time with this prospect.

I have immense gratitude for the invention of the cell phone and computer.  It became our lifeblood.  It maintained our flow of communication and allowed our priorities to remain high.

Soon you both would be in high school and all that comes with it.  Friends, homework, clubs, cheerleading, and of course…boys!  The awareness that boys would come into play was constantly downplayed but reality determined this as inevitable.  With your charming dispositions, brilliant minds, and of course stunning radiance, well, how could the boys not be everywhere?

You both took leadership roles and excelled in means that reflected your individualized abilities.  Both rose to the top and rated yourselves as young women who others desired to be around.  Your lives became a testament to the purity of your hearts, an acceptance of divine love reflected to those all around.  Can you tell yet that I’m proud of you both?

Our trips together now became staging grounds for deep discussions on the meaning of life.  Our chats developed into full length conversations detailing our deepest beliefs and hopes for the future.  I found our disagreements rewarding.  It’s in these times the full you is revealed.  The one who exists to not just to please a parent, but desires to be truely herself.  Individuality determines our success not our acceptance of the expected.  Both of you have shown me the mettle to fight for your rightful place in this crazy world we call home.  Something has gone right in your lives to make this an actuality.

So here we are, only a few shorts months away from graduation.  Dreams come alive and burst forth with opportunity.  Live your lives with imagination.  Live your lives with possibility.  Leave regret behind, focus on instilling the essence of now with every breath.  Unleash your visions for tomorrow and never accept someone else’s expectation for you.  Raleigh and Ashton, God has infused each of you with greatness.  It is your job now to spend the rest of your lives letting it out and sharing that gift with others and the world as a whole.

Thank you for giving me eighteen delightful, entertaining, challenging, and unforgettable years of your life.  As a father, I can say without hesitation, it’s been a blast and I wouldn’t change a single thing.  I love the ladies you both have become.

Seek excellence.  Seek truth in strange places.  Look for the good in all.  Believe in possibilities.  Dream real big.  Chase the impossible.  Find happiness in yourself.  Believe in miracles.  See the wholeness of God everywhere.  Be kind.  Let gentleness prevail.  Let no one step on your dreams.  Live your hopes and no one else’s.

There has never been a day when I didn’t offer up thanksgiving for you girls.  I prayed for you long before you came into my world and seek God’s best for you daily.  I take comfort in your faith, as it gives hope.  Never let your faith grow stagnant.  Keep faith alive by testing it to find its value.  Faith is an individual effort that no one can determine for you.  You and you alone make it meaningful.  Let you light continue to shine.

Ashton and Raleigh…Happy Birthday!  I love you and believe in each of you.   Go forth and fly!           

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2 Comments

  1. mom said,

    March 3, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    You opened up my box of memories kiddo. I remember a cold bathroom floor in Arkansas where the three of us ended up sobbing after they asked my if Daddy and Mommy were going to live together again. I answered carefully but couldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. Many miles traveled taking them to see you and many miles just to see us. Cutting a Christmas tree and Raleigh sitting by herself in the dark singing to the tree “You are so beautiful”. Getting ready for our New Years Eve parties. Jeweled fingernails when they became young ladies. On and On. There are so many that I have never told anyone. This is so beautiful Mike. As are you. I love you all.

  2. Jerry said,

    March 3, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Ashton and Raleigh have a great dad. Thanks for this beautiful bit of writing.


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