We sat on the beach this past October, coffee in hand, talking about the water and the boats. My grandfather was a merchant seaman, and my Dad – back in the day before he met Mom – was a commercial fisherman as well. Specifically, a shrimp boat operator off the coast of South Florida, where I was born. I could listen to his stories about his experiences as a young boy and young man, and his escapades in Miami, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables back in the 40’s and 50’s for hours…and he loves telling them!
By time time I was born, I was the third girl, and I guess Dad knew a son wasn’t going to happen. I was supposed to be a “Derek”. Oops. Poor guy. He survived three daughters. I’m pretty sure he deserves a medal! As the “son he never had”, I have so many memories fishing with him (and going to the races, too), both of which I still love.
There’s something about being on the water with Dad. Anyone in our family will tell you the same thing. He transforms…comes alive…his whole demeanor changes, relaxes. Mom said recently that he was born with sea air in his lungs (although fresh water will suit him just fine, too), and a fishing rod in his hand. And I think she’s right!
On the beach that day last October, our family was struggling. I had just learned of my cancer a few days before our trip, and we were all grieving in our own way and trying to figure it all out. I remember sitting with him that day, just the two of us on the shore, and the water had turned pretty rough. Although I love to look at the ocean, being in the water frightens me a little, and there were boats out there – I became concerned for them as the waves grew higher and the sea became more and more angry. I began to ask Dad about the instruments on a boat and how (technically) a boat navigates the waters to determine its location and finds its way home, out of a storm. So Dad started sharing the names and functions of the instruments…I have to admit, I was only half listening, because a larger truth struck me as he spoke.
As he talked, I was flooded with memories. Our memories.
As a little girl, sneaking in to the living room while he slept, lifting one of his eyelids up (literally) and saying “Dad, are you up?”
Giggling with my friends as he snored, napping in front of the TV.
Watching him completely destroy our kitchen when he tried to make breakfast.
Running to him in my little yellow daisy nightgown, with a tray of pretend treats I’d made him in my play kitchen – and he pretended to eat every single one, even when he was so tired!
Walking proudly with him into the Kay’s Drug Store lunch counter every Saturday for our date.
Hearing his voice cheer for me louder than any other Daddy when I played softball.
Eating fruit cocktail with him on our deck in the summer.
Seeing him and Mom sneak kisses when they thought we weren’t looking.
Crying on his shoulder when I broke up with my first boyfriend in junior high (and several after).
In the hospital after his stroke, with about 20 tubes attached to him, as he insisted that he get on his knees to pray (and did).
Finding a heart-shaped box of candy for Valentine’s Day on my doorstep the first year I had moved away from home.
And the hours and hours of talks about life, and God, that we’ve had as two adults.
It all just came rushing back. My Dad. My Daddy. I love him so much it hurts. Each of those little memories came together in a flood of reassurance that this man I sat next to…my Dad…had authority over my life since my first breath, and that I have a humble warrior whom I call Dad to walk with me through this.
But that wasn’t all … In that moment on the beach, I realized something else. My Dad was speaking with authority – he KNEW those instruments and how each of them worked. As he spoke, my concern for the boats lessened, because my Dad convinced me that they had the tools they needed to find their way home.
And in that moment…I knew I did, too.
My heavenly Father has been my Daddy, too, since before my first breath …my Abba… lovingly readying me for such a time as this over many years before. My future? It’s His memory.
I have what I need to get Home and all the shelter I need for the journey. As my earthly father spoke with authority about his knowledge of how the boats find their way in the storm, my Heavenly father speaks with authority about His promise that I may soar on wings like eagles to rise above it.
The rough waters? They aren’t nearly as uncharted as we think they are.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Thank you for fiercely fighting for me and our family on your knees.
I am a woman richly, richly blessed and proud to call you my father.