When my life began, my father had been dad to two for over two years. He tenuously clutched a tiny premature newborn between his fingertips and wrist – all the space needed to contain my struggling, sick body – all the while understanding that two little boys, both still in diapers, waited at home. He was 19 when he had his first daughter, so if you do the math perhaps you get only a glimpse into what it must have felt like for this young man facing so much responsibility.
I have written a great deal about the loves in my life, but focus solely on the romantic partnerships that have passed through me on this journey. Today, I feel inclined to portray another love I have known my entire life… My dad’s name is Jim, and he is perhaps the best man I have ever known.
Over the years, I watched my dad mature into the funniest, most loyal person. It feels kind of funny to say that I recognize my father’s maturation process, but I think this is a very accurate portrayal of what has occurred, especially when one considers how observational I am (I think, also, it is a middle child thing). You see, when I was young, I recall a very different dad than I have today. I still remember some birthday celebrations we threw for him when he was still in his late twenties (can you even imagine this? If you had “normal-aged” parents, probably not!) He was always playing pranks on us and my mom, often showing up from work with duct tape around pseudo-chopped-off appendages, spewing fake blood all over his bewildered audience. Mom rarely fell for his antics, but the kids, we all thought dad was about to die (this feeling a relatively common one) because how can someone bleed that much and not die?!
He engineered a face mask once that was merely a plywood cutout of a man’s profile, and he retrofitted it (using technical HVAC terms – he is going to be so proud of me) to his head – all this effort so that, as he drove down the street in his Area Heating work van, people did a double-take at the weird big-headed face next to them at the stop light! He built us a double-decker tree-fort over the creek, and then laughed hysterically as we played in it, hearing ping-ping-ping. What was that sound, you wonder? Bb’s from a pumped-up bbgun aiming straight for a few frightened kids just trying to play in their awesome fort. Of course, however, he taught us to shoot back – because what kind of father-child bbgun war would be fair if we didn’t have our own supply of pellet guns and ammo?
There are so many stories I could share here to illustrate the kind of dad I grew up with. The kind that was “young” by standards relative only to someone strapped with too much responsibility at too young an age. I never blamed the guy then, at least I hope not, and I sure as hell do not blame him now.
I would not trade my clay-canyon riding, potato-gun shootin’, toilet blow-upping, hide-and-seek playing childhood for any alternate life I could have had. Not in a moment.
Because my dad did something else unconventional, but just as perfect for his five children. He talked to us. Every week. We had our family meeting. Not about all the things we did wrong, but all the things we can do right. How to love each other. How to show respect. What is right and what is wrong. Why we love God, and why God loves His children. My dad spent the time to teach us about the world in in-depth conversations perhaps way beyond our eager minds’ capability to understand, but he did it knowing at least he tried. I think, really, because he lacked that growing up in his own life, so he made it a priority for us in ours, that we would know, even when he was shooting at us with a cocked-and-loaded rubberband gun or chasing me with a “spider” that was really a rolled-up ball of string… We would know he loved us. That I always knew.
I became a teenager and there are many chapters to skip here, merely to save myself the embarrassment of revealing all of my bad decisions. Nonetheless, my dad continued to provide for us, and continued to take part, however I would allow him to, in my life. He painstakingly taught all of my three brothers the trade of HVAC and groomed them to all be, in their own right, true upholders of the Geddes’ legacy of service, hard work ethic, and respect in the workplace. He taught all of his children how to drive a stick-shift so that, no matter what, we would always be able to drive whatever car we could find. He encouraged good choices but stuck by all of us during bad ones.
Then comes the part of my life, in my story personally, where my dad became a key player – and this is how our relationship has strengthened, the starting line if you will, to the rest of our life as father and daughter. When I fell in love for the first time, it was to a hard working tradesmen. A machinist who owned a carhart jacket that was just like my dad’s. They met and instantly liked each other, but my dad found a rare treat in Tim that he hadn’t even known he was missing: Music. Their love of the same classic rock, and Tim’s mastery on the guitar, struck an instant chord with my dad, and soon enough, they were playing Led Zeppelin together in our music room each Saturday night. Dad would wail on the drums and of course the guitar played by my wide-eyed fiancé; we shared countless nights waking neighbors, laughing, and making music. I learned that my dad had many more talents than I knew and I admired how well he integrated into my life. His visits were always a point of great excitement for me, and for him, this was the first time he got to see his oldest daughter in love.
Gone were the days of bb-guns and hide-and-seek, and soon, so we all thought, he would be giving me away as a young bride to a man I adored. Favor turned on me, however, and my father’s love and support became paramount as I endured the brutal loss of that relationship. His support during the time kept me afloat, and I spent many nights curled up on his couch, happy just to be near him as I tried to piece back together who I was.
A father bears many burdens in his life, and few I know of have endured more than my dad, but this especially shows the mark of a true spirit: The night he had to look into the eyes of each of his children and tell us we lost our mother, his ex-wife and the person whom gave him his children… I remember watching him, so stoic, his mouth moving in slow motion, as he said words that no doubt tore at the core of his soul. About an hour after we all learned the news, dad came back downstairs to his living room where we all had gathered, and he held in his palms an open bible, turned to a special passage. And as he read it aloud to us, tears welled up in his eyes again, and he reminded us of God’s promise that even the worst sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. That even our mother, whom died of her addictions and left us with a void we could not fill, was redeemed and would be in the presence of God, celebrating with Him. He chose, my father, in that moment to give us hope. To remind us, especially true for me at that time, that God still cared, and loves us, and that He loved our mother. The kind of strength and courage, and not to mention pure faith, it takes to do that – I am not sure if my dad knows this but that one act he did that night as I began the mourning process for my mother is something I will never, ever forget.
My dad has said goodbye to both of his daughters in marriage. For me, this has ultimately resulted in unions that have not worked out, but he has stuck by in support of my decisions even when I make the wrong ones. He loved me through it. He continues to love me through it, and he has welcomed me into his arms, time and again, even when I falter repeatedly in love. He said goodbye to his other daughter, my sister, when she married her best friend whom just so happened to be a woman. He walked her down the aisle in her big pink dress, and he kissed her cheek as he gave her away. When the rest of the country was arguing over who should be allowed to love each other, our dad stood by his baby girl and gave her away to the person she chose to marry. Could he have known he would ever do that? In the same way, could he have guessed that my marriages would fail? You see, these things do not matter to my dad, because all he cares about is that we are safe, we are loved, and we are happy. Whatever we do to get to that place he allows us the freedom, and gives us the love we need, while we grow to be exactly who we are.
He has watched his sons all go through their own various stages of life, some of these through addictions, abuse, and great financial strain. He encourages and supports us through all of us, losing many nights of sleep for sure, but all the while his motivation is love.
My dad married again and chose the best wife any man would ever want. Consequently, because he chose so well and Cathy is so freaking cool, my dad’s wife just so happens to be one of my best friends ever. She brought with her two young girls who are now well into their late teens, but instead of shy away from the responsibility of raising yet another set of children, he embraced them and thinks of them as no less or no different than his own children. He loves them greatly, but they know a completely different father in my dad than I ever knew when I was their age.
My dad began parenting as a child, respectively, and he has since raised five of his own children and two that came later, and we all have our own journeys to travel. Some of us have moved away. Some of us are now parents of our own. We have given my dad 6 grandchildren so far, with two more little girls on the way because my sister is about to have twins. He is wealthy in love, and the richness of his life as Grandpa suits his quiet soul perfectly.
He has matured into a quietly sophisticated, well-rounded man. A loving husband. A loyal father. A smart, respected business owner. And the kind of friend that has had the same best friend since he was a teenager. He talks to his brother every day on the phone, and he drives 10 hours if his mom’s air conditioner goes out at 3am just so he can service it. He thinks of something funny and calls me just to make me laugh, and I swear he is the only person in the world who actually appreciates my sense of humor, but I think that is because I derived mine specifically from his.
I have known a lot of love, but most of it has changed or gone away completely through the years. My dad did not do a perfect job raising his children, and he was not the perfect husband to my mom. But what he always did right was that he gave 100%. All the time. Misguided efforts at times thwarted his intentions, but he never gave up. He never walked out, even when it meant he had to walk to work in the snow. He never tired of raising children, even though he had five before he his late twenties. He never turned his back on any of his kids, arguably when it may have been best to do so in some cases, because he felt, and feels, that at least loving us through our lives is better than leaving us with nobody who really cares.
He would say, if you asked him and he felt like going deep, that he feels he made many mistakes in his life. But, as his adoring daughter, I do not see it this way. My life, from childhood to now, went exactly as planned. Because I had a daddy, through it all, who never let me doubt how much he loved me. That kind of love, encouragement, and support – well, it means more than a thousand “good” decisions in place of poor ones, especially when those supposed bad decisions merely means replacing a bb-gun with, perhaps, something a little less harmful. But, hey, if that is the trade-off he refers to, I would correct him and say none of that was a mistake, because I can build one hell of a tree fort and I think I am one of the only girls I know who knows how to construct a potato gun, or bend sheet metal, or bondo and sand an old classic car.
I am so thankful for my dad because he taught me what I want in a mate. I finally understand, after so many failures, that I want the kind of man who isn’t afraid to sacrifice for his family. The kind of man that can talk about the world logically, but still can express his feelings when the time is right. I want the kind of person that is loyal to me even when I make huge mistakes.
I found that person, finally, and today it occurred to me that John is a lot like my dad, and I think that is why this time it will work. And not in a weird way, but in an obvious way. Because my dad is the best example I have of what a strong, dedicated father and husband looks like. I could not have asked for anyone better, and that is what I want for my own children. So, when it comes down to it, the greatest man I have ever known is the man I call my daddy. And because of his examples, even the ones that were not so great, I know now what to look for in life when I want to find someone worthwhile to know.
I love you, daddy. Thank you for all you have given me, taught me, and shown me. All of us. The world is a better place with you in it. My life has been blessed because of you always here to give me love and support. I am a better me, when I really sit and think about my life, because I know that you love me.
Every person experiences it when the second arrives. It happens in an instant. Everything anyone ever told you before that moment will just not do it justice to when you feel it – truly experience it – for yourself: When we became parents, we finally, absolutely understood about unconditional love. The blossoming of a soul happens in the blink of an eye, from one final push to the first breathe of a brand new life; we change from merely grown-up children into parents – we see life in an entirely different light. The light of our children.
When it happened for me, nearly five years ago now, I was 24. Many people whispered about the joys of parenthood, and the challenges that would accompany them. From those conversations, I recognized it would surely be love, but quite honestly, nobody is ever prepared… The love overtakes you. It truly does.
Now, I am edging closer to 30 than I would like, and Layla has a sister in the throes of the wonderful, dreaded two’s, and together, they hold my heart in their small effectual mouths – Jemma screams because she wants more candy, and big sissy tattles on her, as if I did not know what drama was unfolding already she feels it her duty to inform the authorities. I am mother; Jury, Judge, and Pardoner. I am the see’er of see’ers, the do’er of do’ers, and the final axe to the grindstone. Reverse the rolls, however, and who are my children to me? My greatest reward, the most tenacious challenge, and the purest example of God I have ever known…
I am, in all ways, entirely, and absolutely in love with my children – I never knew love could be so deep…
Which inevitably speaks to the reality that my daughters, my precious, tiny baby girls – well, they’re growing. Where once I held a wee-one whom relied on my every move to sustain and keep her safe, now replaced by two opinionated, loud, and reliant beings.
I loved them both, wholly and without fear, the moment they were born – one January 19th and the other August 27th – on those days, I celebrated life, and the motherly pursuit of infant bliss wrapped safely in my arms.
Now, they are heaping sacks of burning coals; they keep me warm and motivate me to move, but sometimes, I am so burnt out it does not make sense that tomorrow, I will have to get up and start the same day all over again. Now, they are not babies anymore – I am both reverently nostalgic about this and at the same time overjoyed that we enter into new stages of development constantly.
Layla understands multiple languages. We can speak to her in Arabic, French, Spanish, and English – she translates words when I do not understand what she says, and she is teaching me things I am not familiar with. She can write the entire alphabet, and all her numbers, and she understands complex emotional problem-solving situations, expressing herself articulately and with little frustration when an idea is new or foreign. She speaks eloquently, uses cordial language, and knows about respect and honesty. She loves to dance and sing, play dress up, and dig in the dirt. She loves to look through books and hear stories… And she loves to cuddle her family. She is FOUR.
Jemma is hilarious, a total cheeseball. Her comprehension of language is vast, and she can speak more articulately than most children her age. Her ability to pick up and carry a tune, after hearing a song a handful of times, astounds all those whom hear her do it. She loves people but especially her closest family, and when she spies someone she loves, she always comes running with a big, gap-toothed grin. She can sing songs in French as if she was singing the plain old Itsy Bitsy Spider in English – in fact, today in the drug store, she sang “Frère Jacques” to a complete stranger whom just so happened to BE a French woman – and almost made the woman cry she was so impressed! She is TWO.
I am not certain where the time has gone. I really do not comprehend it myself and I am the one who has lived the past four years as their mother.
We have lived a hell of a lot of life together – these girls and me. I can go back through pictures in my mind and remember when I told two different men that I was pregnant, and I can remember the day both chose to walk away. I remember becoming a single mother once, then twice, and the heartache Layla endured because Jemma’s father was so demanding and hard on her. I can think of the cries my second daughter had when daddy wasn’t there anymore – she was only 6 months old, she could not have understood. The joy and heartbreak I have known with these children in-tow, I believe, is what has made my love for them more fierce and true than anything else I have known.
I choke back tears now when I think of the sheer fabrication of it all – how it created the kind of mother I have become – and why most of the time I allow my children to act as they please because I feel I owe them at least their individual freedoms… But there is no sense in regretting any time spent and gone; I did the best I could, but at least I know that time, loving them throughout the struggles, has made me realize why our bond means so much to me. Still, though, it feels rather crazy – how fast the time has gone – and how true it is that one cannot stop nor slow it down…
One of the common threads that always accompanies the inevitable phrase, “you have no idea how much you will love your child…” is this, “… But just wait – it goes so fast – do not blink!”
I can remember holding both of my children for that first moment of their lives. I recall staring down at this pink-skinned, squinty-eyed newborn baby and falling into a consuming love. It was like nothing I had ever known. I have been fortunate enough to experience this twice.
As I sit and remember that, for both Layla and Jemma, I almost tear up at how much has already changed. But, it is for the best – I have to remember that – because growth, and change, are really the only things we can earnestly count on in this life. They have to grow. If they stopped, that means death. I would never dream or want anything, then, but their continued maturity.
But I am slightly feeling bittersweet at the pace of it all.
One day I found out I was pregnant and then, poof! Five years later, here they are – these little people who like Dinosaur Train and Super Why on PBS. They love yogurt and cheese and ice cubes. They prefer to shack up in my bed than sleep with each other in their own room. They fight but then hold hands. They scream at me for reprimanding them but then chase after me to cuddle. They can enrage me sometimes too easily when my patience meets its end, but then, I feel immediately remorseful and crave closeness to get us back to what feels optimal: Love.
Relationships take work – it does not matter with whom. They ALL do.
But, with children, it just feels so worth it to give them all of me. It feels so natural – almost as if I was born to do it. And no, I do not mean merely in the biological sense because I have a vagina, but in the belief that Layla SaMaya Roberta and Jemma Anne Ileen were meant to be my daughters. That they were placed with me on this earth so we could teach each other about life.
They remind me to slow down, but to be honest, I do not do it enough. I cannot even recall the last time I wrote something purely about parenting or simply about/for my children. Life gets in the way so often. Priorities change – plans change. A year ago I would never have guessed I’d be in this beautiful home with a wonderful man and my daughters all together. I never imagined I would be here…
My girls were once my babies. I was told I would love them, but man, do we ever under sell THAT experience!
To love them is like breathing. Absolutely essential. That is what it feels like; I could not ever imagine life without them in it, and I do not want to try.
As they grow, I will only love them deeper – we encounter challenges together, we laugh, and we cry. They will watch the lines around my eyes deepen and my hair change color, as i too watch them grow to one day soon become women, and someday, I pray I get to tell them how much they will love their own children. I will hold the memories of having my precious tiny newborn daughters in my arms, as I watch them give birth to their own tiny miracles. Then, and only then, on that special day, will they ever know how much they mean to me. How much I love them… Nothing I would or could have said will do it up until then. Unconditional love is not explained, it’s born.
- Babies! (timothymessenger.com)
- How Many Is Too Many? Michelle Duggar Says She’s Trying for Baby Number 20! (thebump.com)