Dear Rebecca (and Luke),
When I first met your Dad, I was 20 years old. I was young, shallow and clueless. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit I first went out with him because he played basketball and looked cute in blue jeans. Fortunately, despite my immaturity, I chose well. Last night, I had an amazing realization. It hit me as I lay in bed and listened to the hum of his annoying C-Pap machine. I reminisced over the last year. Difficult memories of your dad laying in bed recovering from his two spinal cord surgeries while I prepared his 3 am medications, helped him to the bathroom and tried to pay the endless medical bills. Despite this weary year or maybe because of it, I feel an urgent need to tell you something.
My reason for writing this letter to you is simple. I notice (through facebook) your friends are starting to have boyfriends. While it may be exciting in middle school to be “in a relationship”, you deserve better. Let’s be honest. The purpose of dating is to find a life partner. Someone to share your future. Is middle school really the place you want to look? If you wait a few years, you’ll have better choices than the guy with his saggy jeans around his knees or the pot-head with red eyes and Justin Bieber haircut. In fact, if you wait, the greasy, video game playing, nerdy guys in middle school will grow several inches, learn to shower and get college degrees. The dorky friday nights spent at home on the computer will have most likely exposed them to a family who loves them and that translates into a man that knows how to love a woman.
One day, you will choose a partner for your life. Please choose carefully. At the time, you’ll picture a white dress, romance, and a future full of laughter, vacations, starting a family and fun. You’ll picture mind-numbing happiness and heart-stopping love. However, I want to gently warn you to remember a few things before you make that choice. Life rarely turns out how you plan.
This person will be by your side for the rest of your life (God willing). They should never make you feel less than them. I’ve tried to teach you a good spouse is like your favorite bra. They should be supportive, uplifting and aways trying to make you look good. How do they make you feel about yourself? Your dad loved me enough to follow my career around the country. He loves me so much he let me leave that career to be home with you.
Make sure you choose someone who makes you want to be a better person. Don’t think you can change them. Don’t think they’ll change for you. Accept them as they are right at that moment. Because that moment might be all you get. I’ve heard as 2 people get married the man and woman think 2 different things. The man: “She’ll stay the same (she doesn’t!)”. The woman: “He’ll change (he doesn’t)”. Your dad married me despite my horrible cooking abilities, dismal laundry skills and reckless impatience.
Make sure the man you choose comforts you when you cry. Tells you you’re beautiful when you’re sick. Chooses to do the right thing even when it’s difficult. Your dad has spent his life helping people that most would ignore. He walks alongside hurting people and tries to make life a little better for them. He acknowledges the messiness of life and helps clean it up. Don’t forget the times he was late for dinner because he was helping a mentally ill man. Or the times he was stuck on the phone because someone felt life was pointless. It isn’t a job. It’s who he IS.
While I pray you and your future spouse will live long healthy lives, I know firsthand that isn’t always possible. So, ask yourself, would I wake up with him every 3 hours while he lays in pain just to make sure he takes his meds? Would I help him to the bathroom? Would I love him even if he doesn’t feel like a man anymore? Remember, a man is more than his job. He’s more than his athletic ability or bank account. Most of all, he’s more than how he looks in jeans.