When I told my ex that our marriage was over and I was done 'trying' (a million things), he made one statement that has stuck with me for a long time and probably will until my kids get married. He told me that I had no idea what it was like to grow up as a child of divorce and that I was making a decision that would forever scar my boys.
He was absolutely right...I didn't know and I don't think I will until my boys get married and create their own families and I ask them what pained them through the divorce. My childhood was so far from "broken" that someone looking in from the outside might even call my childhood, and family, the 'leave it to beaver' type of family.
We weren't rich but I never wanted for anything. I knew I was loved everyday, every minute...I was praised for how smart I was, not just that I was pretty; my confidence level soared because my parents built me up and taught me I could do anything (except ski - my mom didn't let me do that for fear that I'd brake something and she was probably right). I didn't over ask but I was never denied. When I turned 16, my dad gave me his car. When I turned 17, I got a new-to-me sports car that I contributed to (only a small portion) that was pretty sweet (and fast) and only three years old. I always got new clothes before school started, Christmas and birthday presents were bountiful, we lived in a nice home, we lived in a good school district, my mom made my lunch every day of my senior year of high school (don't worry, my sis was even more spoiled) and now my kids know that all that they have to do is bat their eyelashes and they'll get what they want from their grandparents, including sugar cereal which my sis and I were denied our whole lives - can you tell I'm a little bitter? :):)
Can you tell how great my childhood was - those were my biggest worries when I was a kid - if I was allowed to eat Lucky Charms, not if my mom and dad were going to embarrass me with another fight, like I'm sure my kids have wondered at times.
So my post, is my gift to my father...a thank you note and ode to how this wonderful man helped shape who I am today and made my life picture perfect - he set the bar high.
Dear Diddy, (because that's how you learn to say Daddy in GA)
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my life would take some of the turns that it's taken but I'm so thankful that you were there.
You've always been there.
When I learned how to ride my bike, when I listened to every speech about being nice to my sister, when you would pace the house waiting for three women to finish getting ready for church and then speed in order to be on time, when I worked hard on a school project and you were just as excited as I was because "we" got a good grade, when you drove me and my friends to the mall or to the movies and we tortured you with squeals and giggles, when you drove me and a boy to the movies, when your dad insulted your daughters for burping in the car and you stood up for us, when you let me wear my first bikini after mom talked you into it, when you taught me how to check my oil, how to hang a picture, the attempt to teach me how to change a tire, when you whistled your loud whistle at my high school graduation, when you met and dealt with every guy I ever dated whether you liked them or not, when you helped me move out of the house and then helped me move probably 10 more times, when you would come over and mow my lawn when you knew I had been traveling for work for weeks, when you would change my brakes so that I could save a ton of money, when you and mom sold me your house at a good price just because I was your daughter, when you walked me down the aisle, when you were at the hospital for each of the kids births (and wore the same shirt) and became Papa, when you watched the boys Christmas performances (that may or may not have been really painful), when you whistle your loud whistle each time the boys get the puck in the net (even if it was the wrong net), when you dreamed about Fifi before we knew her to be the fiery redhead she is and for all of the dreams of activities you have planned for her to do for the future, when you shared almost every.single.fathers day with me because my birthday fell on the same day or pretty darn close to it, when you fixed my a/c multiple times, when you had a beer with me, when you held me when I told you I was getting divorced, when you help me try to teach life lessons to the kids, when you toasted my elopement and then held me when my second marriage fell apart....when you loved me through every step of my life...you were there.
But you know what means more to me than anything you could have even done for me? What you have done for my mom. How you've loved her. How you worked your tail off to provide for our family so that she could be at home with us...how you came home, exhausted from work, picked up your daughters and played with us like you had all of the energy in the world, only because you knew we had exhausted Mom...how you dreamed of bigger things than having your children grow up in our small Ohio town and moved your family to Florida just because - because there was sunshine, because there were more opportunities, because my mom wanted to move...how you drove every.single.time we took an 18 hour trip to some random state like Arkansas - who goes to Arkansas for vacation - we did - and it was so much fun because you and mom made it fun...how you pitched in and cleaned the house because Mom was a little scary when the house got dirty :)...how you trained each dog we had because it would make Mom's life easier...how you fixed everything in the house, and if you didn't know how you figured it out or asked people (before there was Google or YouTube), all because Mom asked you...how you dealt with each hormone Mom threw out (I can only say that because I am just like her)...how you stood up to your Mom when she said bad things about my Mom and your marriage that you worked hard for...how you would mess up and humble yourself enough to apologize...how you let your mother-in-law move in to your home and you never complained and loved her with everything you had until she went to heaven...how you loved/love Mom's brother's even though they haven't always made your life easy...how you supported everyone of us especially Mom when her dad, Grandpa Bill, Uncle Tom and Grandma died...when you did everything you could to work your tail off so that Mom could 'retire' gracefully...when you love her.
And then, nothing could top how you dealt with the blowing news that Mom had cancer. That's when I truly saw what you were made of. When you went to every appointment...called my sister and I to tell us that mom had breast cancer...when you encouraged her that everything would be ok even though I know you knew nothing about breast cancer and didn't fully understand what was getting ready to happen...when you sat in the waiting room with my sister and I while Mom was undergoing her first mastectomy...when you were with her in the hospital...when you helped her work through that first week of depression and realization of what had just happened...when you called us to come and talk to her...when you worried about her...when you took her on vacation after her first Chemo treatment and shaved her head because the treatment was taking her hair...when you helped her through each recovery week after treatment...when you celebrated her last treatment...when you got the news that it may be back, on the other side...when she went through the second removal and reconstruction...when you never made her feel like less of a woman because of her changes...that's a man...that's a husband...that's a father.
You've set the bar high and I'm so thankful for that.