I keep my guitar pics on my desk in a little bowl that our oldest daughter made and gave me one Sunday in May when she was probably five or six years old. It’s pink and handmade of pottery, and in big grey letters on the outside, it says “Happy Mother’s Day Dad.”
It’s one of my most prized possessions.
For more than ten years I was a single father of two young daughters... Heidi and Hopie.
I can’t tell you I was a great father. I tried. I think was a good father, but the truth is I was still a young man struggling to find myself, while the girls were growing and finding out who they were. I made so many mistakes and was so selfish. At times I was more concerned about being a great songwriter than being a great father. In a lot of ways, I think the girls raised me while I was raising them. But they were so forgiving and loved me unconditionally. They still do.
Heidi and Hopie are 29 and 27 now, and beautiful, loving, intelligent women. Thankfully, they are more mature and secure than I was in my twenties. I have often wished I could go back to when they were young girls and give them more love and more time and more attention. I guess it’s natural to always want a ‘do-over.’ But everyone knows those never happen. You can’t go back. You can only go forward. So I have been trying to be more ‘present’ in their lives. To be less selfish. And the past couple of years, I think I’ve made a little headway. At least I hope I have.
I love being a father. I always have. Joey always said that that’s part of what attracted her to me when we first met. But neither she, nor I, had any idea how important that would be to us years later.
For years after Joey and I got married, I dreamed that God might bless her and me with a baby. A baby that we could love and cherish and raise together. A child that was part her, part me, and all Him. And part of that dream was that I might be given a second chance at being a father.
So when Indiana came along, it was a dream come true in more ways than most people know.
But then life happened.
And last fall, when Joey and I found out that the treatments weren’t working and that more-than-likely, she wasn’t going to live to see another Spring... Joey sat beside me on a glider on our back deck and cried and cried. But not because of the news that the cancer had spread and there was nothing more the doctors could do. She cried because Indy was going to lose her mama, and I was going to be a single father again. Joey knew how hard it had been for us for all those years before she came along and she was upset that she was going to leave me in the same situation. I remember her tears falling and her saying, ‘I don’t want you to have to raise a child again by yourself... it’s not fair.’ Though I was worried about the reality of what was probably in our future, I tried to smile as I wiped Joey’s tears and said, “it’s okay honey... now we know why God chose me to be with you.” I realized then that God knew what was in store and all those years by myself with the girls was Him preparing me for the job of caring for Indiana.”
Still, Joey was angry and disappointed. The truth is, we both were. But we just did what we always did when we were confused and hurt and scared... we got on our knees, held hands and we prayed. Soon, our tears were replaced by hope and trust that God’s plan was perfect and that somehow, someway... everything would be okay. We never cried over that again. We just celebrated every day that we were given together, and tried our best to prepare for the day when those days together would be no more.
Though my beautiful wife sleeps in a bed of clover behind our farmhouse, we still celebrate her on this special day and lift her up and give her flowers. This is not my day. It is hers. Joey loved being a mother more than anything else in the world. And she is still Indy’s mama. And Heidi’s and Hopie’s.
And she is part of them.
Sometimes when I’m driving somewhere and Indiana falls asleep in her car seat, I pull over to the side of the road and I just sit there and stare at her. At her long eyelashes and her little fingers and tennis shoes.
And I still see Joey beside her. With us. Everywhere we go.
And all the pain and fear that I feel melts away... and it’s replaced by the feeling of how lucky I am... that we are. Indy’s so beautiful. When I look into her little eyes... all I see is love. And her mama, and her sisters, and that little pink bowl... and the incredible second chance I’ve been given to be a father.
Thank you for the beautiful gift, my love.
Happy Mother's Day Joey.