Just yesterday one of my daughters called, and I could hear the despair in her voice as soon as I answered the phone. She called me to ask for prayer about a number of things that were conspiring to make her life really stressful right now. She has just turned thirty and is facing some of the more gnarly problems that all adults deal with: frustration about her job and concerns about her finances. It all added up to her feeling anxious and unhappy and worried about her future.
I listened carefully, told her I loved her, and promised that I would pray for her. I even offered her a little fatherly advice. Later she called back to say that she’d had an unexpectedly good day and that she was doing better. I’m pretty certain that my prayers and my simple “I love you” did much more good than any of the advice I offered. And as she hung up saying, “I love you, dad,” her words left me with a big, foolish-looking grin.
I seem to remember a quote from Mark Twain about his surprise that as he grew older, his father seemed to get smarter. Of course the humor comes from the realization that when we were younger we tended to think our parents might just be the stupidest and most clueless people on the planet. And later on we realized that they actually had a lot more wisdom than we ever gave them credit for. Yep, I can personally testify to not fully appreciating my dad until I was a bit older. The old guy actually did know something after all. And now, two years after his slow and debilitating exit from this world by the hand of Parkinson’s disease, I really miss the hard-earned wisdom he would pass along to me. These days I sometimes wish I could sit down and talk with him about a few of the struggles I am facing in life. I know he’d listen, he’d understand, and sometimes he’d even tentatively offer some advice. I miss that.
My two daughters and I have traveled together through the years: from when they were little girls who needed to be guided and protected (often protected more than anything from their own bad decisions); through the teenage years where they needed to find themselves, to spread their wings, and try some test flights on their own (a period during which it is both exciting and terrifying to be a parent); and into the years where they have become adults (thoroughly their own people, with their own convictions, priorities, passions, and goals). Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a moment of it; even those earlier days when I was unfairly suspicious, untrusting, or a little too harsh in my pronouncements. I learned a lot about myself through the years when they were growing up, and some of it wasn’t very pretty. But the great thing is we emerged from the tumultuous years as not only a dad and his daughters, but as friends.
I love being a dad. And I am especially enjoying this season where my daughters are people I look forward to spending time with. We can relish a bit of friendly competition on the golf course, get thoroughly drenched on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal while vacationing together, or have a long talk over lunch during which I never fail to be stretched and learn something. We can laugh together or pray together when life feels insurmountable.
These days my role continues to change and adapt, and sometimes I think my daughters are looking out for me as much as I am for them. I’ll never stop being a dad. And I am a blessed man because of that.