Today is my favorite day of the year. It's the first full day of Spring, March Madness is underway and Spring Break is upon us. Those are all great things, but they're not what makes today my favorite day. Today is my favorite day because 43 years ago a teen-age girl gave birth to a healthy baby boy and walked away from him. A hospital cared for him for a couple of days until your Grandma Lou and Grandpa Wayne could get to him and name him Chip. Today is Dad's birthday and you know I love celebrating the miracle of his life.
You wouldn't be here without him. You're half him. Which means that half of you is a genetic mystery and the other half of you is pure sweetness and light just like your precious mother, don't deny it. And in the other sense you wouldn't be here without him holding me back on the days that I was at the end of myself trying to get to you listen or understand or cooperate or just get in the car. Dads are good for their kids' longevity sometimes. Similarly, you also wouldn't be here -- in Denver -- without him. Here you've found, at your school, a community that fits and a best friend and even have hopes of a college you'd like to attend. Yes, you've had to tag along for fourteen years as we've lived our lives, but if you've learned any integrity, loyalty and orderliness, the credit goes to your dad because those are the things he's all about.
I met your dad at church. Big surprise, right? It kind of was. Dad would come to my church in Fountain Valley, California off and on with his best friend, Phil. It wasn't that Dad was a church slacker and just showed up with his questions sometimes. Just the opposite. Dad was a churched kid and he was in college working on a Youth Ministry degree and interning at another church in town. Because this meant he didn't have his own community, he would sometimes come hang out with Phil and I's college group for fun.
My college group was pretty big, but more importantly we lived life together -- kind of like what you see our Core Group doing now. It was a really formative time for me and Dad showed up right in the middle of it, and when he did I couldn't stand him.
You heard that right.
He and his best friend were hooligans. From my perspective they were immature, impetuous and ridiculous. I was dating another boy long-distance, so I wasn't even interested in giving these guys the benefit of the doubt. In this dreadful sense I guess you could say that I "knew" your dad for three or four years though I hadn't ever said anything significant to him.
One time our college group went on a retreat. And though I still had that boyfriend a long-ways away, Dad and Phil showed up on the retreat and that was the first time I actually heard your dad say serious things. We also played a silly game as a group which Dad and I ended up winning and he picked me up and carried me out of the room in celebration. It was odd and awkward and yet I think I began to see that he was just full of fun and not quite the frat boy I thought he was.
Fast forward -- I broke up with that boy and several months later I was at my group's Saturday night Bible study (yes, we DID that) and Dad was there and he commented on something with uncommon insight. Right then I thought, "He's not what I thought he was," and right then I also caught him looking at me. Afterwards, we all went bowling together but Dad and I just talked the entire time.
Your dad and I had our first date on Valentine's Day. Because you have romantic and cool parents. Our college group was planning to all have dinner that night at the Disneyland Hotel and then watch the water show that has since ended because they put in California Adventure. Dad invited me to be his date. When we were together that night, all of us clinking glasses around the table, we got all these great looks from our friends. It was as if everyone was thinking, "This thing you're starting, it's going to last." He grabbed my hand at one point and said, "Oh, you have warm hands." Of course, as you know, your dad's hands are always freezing so it was true, but it was also a total line. But I didn't care. He was nice.
I dated your dad for a couple of months and then in May he had a bit of a freak-out and said we needed to take a break for two weeks while he figured out what he wanted. Here's the thing: when Dad decides something needs to happen, he just makes it happen. He doesn't wait around and think, "Someday." Just like when he sold the Mustang; he didn't cry over it. He just turned around and bought something else. Your dad gets. things. done. and. moves. on.
During this two weeks he was deciding just what he wanted out of his relationship with me. I respect him for walking away for a bit so he could think straight. When he came back around we had this mature discussion and then less than two months later he proposed to me. Dad doesn't mess around.
I'm the wishy washy one. I caught wind that Dad was going to propose to me the next day and I honestly didn't know how I would answer him. We'd only been dating for five months. My parents hadn't met him. I had another year of college to finish. How did I know that he was the right one? I had a zillion questions and I sat up all night and asked God all my questions and made a list of pros and cons and talked to my best friend in Japan (that was when long distance calls cost you about $200). I second-guessed everything and I loved everything and I was kind of a mess.
The next evening Dad and I picked up some take-out and went to Huntington Beach. We sat and ate dinner on a lifeguard stand and then we walked on the beach to the pier. At the end of the pier he put his arms around me, said some things and then he opened a ring box. He'd called Grandpa and asked him for his blessing and I was dumbfounded because I can imagine how that conversation went. Grandpa's not much for talking on the phone... to a man he doesn't know... who's asking if he can marry his daughter... poor Dad. Heck, poor Grandpa. I heard later that Grandma made Grandpa watch Fiddler on the Roof after that because apparently Grandpa didn't know that this was a tradition, for a boy to ask a girl's father if he could marry her. You haven't seen Fiddler on the Roof either, but it's all in there.
And so my words to Dad when he proposed weren't, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" or a more gorgeous, "Of course, I will." My first words were more of a sniggered, "You called my dad?!" So he had to tell me about it but I got the really short version of it because Dad was still waiting for me to answer him and had to remind me that there was still this question hanging in the air there. That's when I said, "Yes." He put the ring on my finger and we giggled in his truck all the way home.
I asked Dad later what he would have done if I had told him, "No." And he said, "I'd have taken you home and that would be the end." I was shocked. "Really!? You'd have done that?!" He said, "Babe, I was certain that I was supposed to propose to you. If you weren't certain then that would mean that I had it all wrong. And if this thing that feels so right was really all wrong then I'd just need to start all over somewhere else." There have been a few situations in Dad's life that have been like that. When someone says, "This just isn't going to work out," Dad doesn't sit around and ask questions. He just says, "Thank you very much." And he leaves. Dad's not easily paralyzed. Dad moves on.
You probably have a lot of friends who don't know their parent's story, don't know the deep and powerful love that was established before they were even born. I think that you need to know that you come from a pretty determined Father and a mother who sometimes needs reassurance and convincing. You need to know that we've never been together without also being in the Church. This thing, this body, this people is part of how we do marriage. You also need to know that I'd marry your father over again, any day, any time; that he has captured my heart and I am stuck to him like glue. Your dad's love language is "acts of service," he'll eat any kind of pizza you put in front of him and he doesn't play mental games; he says what he means. And to him when he said, "I do" it meant "until the day I die."
When he does weddings he says, "Love is an act of the will accompanied by emotion that seeks the best of its object." Your dad epitomizes this definition. He loves me unconditionally, some days by pure will-- as messy as I am -- and some days by simple emotion that he lets peek out in his texts and in his touch. But the thing I notice most consistently is he always thinks the best of me. He never acts jealously or suspects I'm doing something behind his back. He doesn't think I'm his problem when life gets tough. He doesn't remember the incompetent things I do and he's very willing to forgive when I ask for it. That's what it looks like to think the best of someone. That's what it looks like to love.
When you commit to love, you commit to a good thing.