Fifty-two years ago my dad died in a road construction accident. Somehow the pay loader he was driving swerved off the road and into the ditch. As it fell, the bucket swung and he died immediately.
I was 12 years old.
Thinking about him takes me back to one of my first memories. Three years old, I found myself awake in the middle of the night. Not in my own room, I wanted to leave. But after walking around and around the room, searching with my little arms outstretched, the door just couldn’t be found! So I cried out. Immediately the hallway light came on and as I hurried to the top of the stairs, I discovered my dad running up the stairs to rescue me from the darkness.
These many years later I wonder about that story and why it is lodged in my memory, perhaps in a hopeful place.
Listening to the life stories of many women I often find that a profuse number of dads have not understood their role in the lives of their daughters. They don’t know how fragile their little girls are, how much they desire attention and love that can only come from their fathers. Inside the heart of all little girls is a place where only the love of a dad can settle. This spot can either be filled with dad love or it can require a life time of trying to fill itself with the kind of love that only dad’s are designed to give. I’ve often said that I think little girls should come with a little tag tied to their big toe that says, “DAD, express your love for this little daughter of yours. What she thinks you think about her will affect her entire life. The kind of love is she needs is given by spending time with her, showing that she is smart, pretty and worthy of love. She needs you to love her mother, to be protective, safe and reliable. I think most of all she needs to know that you know her and you are proud of what you see. This kind of knowing frees her to love herself. Confidence grows out of such awareness.”
I didn’t know my dad very well. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know much about me, my favorite color, my dreams, fears or my latest crush. My heart was unknown, un-pursued. As a result I think I lost sight of myself in those years.
Of course, as an adult, I can articulate and understand the reasons.
Thankfully I had another Father, God whose eyes never left me, came after me, loved me and healed my heart. He and I have spent a lifetime running up the stairs to find my lost little self and to say, “You’re going to be just fine. I’m here now. Father God and I will always be near. ”
But on a dark evening fifty-two years ago, my dad lost his chance to father well. He missed the opportunity to show me that I was worth rescuing, even if it was only from a darkened room upstairs in a rickety old farmhouse in northwest Iowa. I often wonder if that first memory of mine was real. Or was it only a dream embedded in the heart of a lost little girl who longed for a daddy to love her.