53: The Constant

53: The Constant

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

The Constant

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

~Robert Heinlein

My parents divorced when I was seven years old. My dad moved out of our house and into his own place and we began our memorable routine of weekly visitations on Wednesday nights and sleepovers every other weekend. It was the characteristic and predictable court-appointed agreement for divorced families. My dad’s idea of visitations and parenting, however, was vastly different from the Court’s. He made a promise on the day his divorce was final that would change the course of my life forever.

My dad promised that he would be more than just a “weekend dad” who fulfilled his obligatory parental duties with limited visits. He wanted more than anything to be a significant presence in my life even though we were not living under the same roof. To this day, I am so grateful to him for overcoming the many obstacles that face divorced dads and cementing an unbreakable bond with me, his youngest daughter.

Throughout my life my dad made me a priority and everybody knew it. He would stop by my house every day, usually after school, to chat for a minute and tell me how much he loved and missed me. I waited on most days with eager anticipation for his shiny, yellow 1976 Stingray Corvette to turn the corner of our block and meander slowly toward my house. When I spotted my dad with the T-tops off and the windows down, I just knew my day was going to get better. Sometimes he would take me for a ride and sometimes we would just sit in the car and talk for a few minutes in the driveway while he learned about what went on in my day.

I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have someone so interested in what was happening in my life. If he could not see me in person he would call on the phone. For the next eleven years until I left for college, I talked to my dad every single day.

During the weekends that I spent at his house I can remember him grilling the best pork chops I’ve ever tasted. He made scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning and cooked pot roast to perfection on Sundays. He always let me help because everything we did, we did together. He rarely accepted any party or dinner invitations on our weekends together because he cherished our time alone as much as I did. We played catch or Frisbee in the yard and rode bikes or took walks to find secret treasures. My fondest memory of those weekends, however, was when my dad would turn on the stove after dinner and I would hear the slow crackle and smell the unmistakable aroma of Jiffy Pop popcorn. I can remember like yesterday the excitement I felt as the tinfoil pouch began to rise and steam poured out from the sides of the pan. My dad would shake and jiggle and pop those kernels to absolute perfection every time.

My adolescence was a typically confusing time, but the bond I had with my dad was the constant in an otherwise chaotic life. After the divorce, and during all of the tumultuous times that the divorce brought to our family (remarriages, stepfamilies, bitter ex-spouses etc.), he always listened patiently. He never discounted the sometimes complex feelings of a young girl. He just listened. And he remained the only reliable, stable presence in my life. I could count on my dad to take me to every doctor or orthodontist appointment, watch every softball game, attend every conference and be present at every significant life event. He always lived up to his promise. I cannot say that about anyone else.

All of my life lessons I learned from my dad. He taught me that you must keep your word. Period. He taught me to be kind, fair and just. He taught me to take the high road, give 110% and never let ’em see you sweat. He taught me that success is a journey, not a destination. But most importantly, he taught me by example.

Conventional wisdom says that to be successful you should simply develop the traits you admire in other successful people. As I figured out what to do with my life and how I wanted to live I didn’t have to look too far for inspiration. My dad is, by far, the most successful person I know. Ever since I was a little girl, I have admired his sense of humor, determination and integrity. He taught me that my only limitations were those that I imposed on myself. I will always be thankful for having such an encouraging and loving teacher in my father; something that many young women of divorced families never get to experience with their own fathers.

Even though I recognized and appreciated my dad’s love, it wasn’t until I had my own children that I realized the profundity of our bond. The closeness we share has always transcended space and time, but I am even more in awe of our relationship because now I can fully appreciate his sense of purpose. To comprehend my dad’s unconditional love for me I need look no further than my own children. When I look deep into their adoring eyes and promise to love them forever and ever, I see the reflection of pure happiness and joy staring back at me. I know my dad must have seen that same blissful reflection in my eyes.

The confidence and security I possess today as a person and a parent is directly related to the man who vowed so many years ago to be more than just a “weekend dad.” He made good on his promise in more ways than I can convey in one story. However, I am most thankful for the father who took in his arms a scared, confused and angry seven-year-old and whispered in her ear, “I love you and I will never leave you.”

~Kimberlee Murray

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