My Dad & Unconditional Love

It’s Father’s Day.  I’m not sure I can write an objective post about my dad.  In fact, I’m sure I can’t. My dad saved my life, taught me what unconditional love is all about and inspires me to keep on going every day no matter how crappy I feel.

My parents had what I think of as an ideal marriage, and even though we didn’t have money when I was a kid, they provided what I now know was a fairy tale childhood. Of course, I didn’t know it then and took it all for granted and had perfectly normal “when I grow up I will never….” thoughts all the time.

What they did was show me what it means to be married, and how to get along with another person day in and day out, and how to love your children and still have a life of your own, and what it means to go to work everyday. They demonstrated work ethic, parenting and fun.

My mom died, suddenly, when I was 16 years old and my brother was 11. Up until then, she was the parent who more frequently punished us, attended parent/teacher conferences, paid the household bills and so on. My dad was always around, too, but she was a bit more of the leader in the family.

When she died, he was suddenly totally responsible for two headstrong children and running a household. He was the sole breadwinner and a single parent. I cannot imagine the burden that was when added to the grief he was experiencing.

A few years later, I graduated from highschool as valedictorian, and with a handful of college scholarships. School was my thing. I decided to move away – but only about an hour away – to go to school.  Against my dad’s advice, took my boyfriend with me. He wasn’t a particularly stable person.

I flunked out of college after one semester due to absences because my boyfriend thought I might meet someone else in school and wanted me to stay home all the time.  I lost all of the scholarships and we moved in with his mom. Within a couple of months I was pregnant. Crash. Burn.

My boyfriend was sometimes violent and always denegrating. He told me that he wanted me to feel so bad about myself I’d never think anyone else would have me. Besides the constant arguing between us, there was even more intense and ugly arguing between him and his mother. When I admitted to myself there was going to be a baby I decided it was time to make a change.

I called my dad and said something like, “I want to come home. Will you come get me?” He said, “I’ll be there in an hour.” He not only came, he brought a friend with a truck. They loaded up all of my stuff – it was only a couple of boxes back then – and I went home.

I never told my dad I was pregnant. We just never talked about it at all. I was afraid he would be mad at me.  It is difficult to talk about the thoughts that went through my head around this time. I’ve always skated around the “dark side” so to speak, but at that point in my life I lived real and serious depression. It was terrible. I hated myself for blowing it all and being a horrible disappointment to everyone.

About two weeks before my due date, my dad’s girlfriend asked me if it was a girl or a boy and what the due date was at dinner. There was no dodging her direct questions. I answered her questions and she asked if I had a name picked out and I said no. My dad said “Stevie Lee.” And so my older daughter was named.

The fact that he never once reprimanded me in any way – not with words or actions or even subtle hints – showed me what it means to really love someone, even when they screw up.  After all, I blew it – all the scholarships, the opportunity to go to school, all the things parents want for their kids. But he never said so.

Life went on, as it is prone to do, and  I married, had another child, finally got that college degree and am now Stevie Lee is old enough to make her own stupid mistakes. I just hope I have the patience and wisdom to handle them as well as my dad handled mine.

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