Tag Archives: father daughter

Closure One Way or Another

DCF 1.0

Hillary’s Bedroom, Ocean Springs, Mississippi (2005)

I turn in my grades this week, and graduation is scheduled for Saturday—a “virtual” ceremony, of course. We plan to have as many graduates as possible return here in December for the in-person version, but it made sense to do something now to commemorate the occasion since these wonderful students have completed the requirements and are college graduates. Many faculty and staff have given their best to make the virtual ceremony meaningful. Our hurt for our graduates’ loss is only exceeded by their own pain. But we sure are trying our best.

Closure is important, and when the typical ways are impossible, we need to create some version anyway.

When my youngest daughter was eight years old, we lost our house to a hurricane. We gutted the house and sold it at a significant loss, and that little girl asked me to take her to visit the house one final time in early December to say good-bye. That seemed like a harmless thing to do.

It was cold that afternoon [note: the picture above was months earlier], and looking back, I guess it was sort of fitting. The wind cut straight through you, foreboding. We didn’t need a key to get in. Or even hands now that I think of it. All of our doors and most of our windows had not been on the house for the past quarter of the year, so when Hillary and I walked in the house, there really wasn’t much to see. But it felt different.

Hillary took over as tour guide and led me from room to room. At times she was less tour guide and more tourist, asking me for some clarification in each place. “Daddy, was this where the couch was?” “Daddy, wasn’t this where we had the television?” From time to time, the tour guide would pop up with a few declarations: “This is where the big red chair was.” “Here is where I would play with my bouncy-balls every once in a while.” “Here was my bed!”

I didn’t recognize what was happening because I am a moron. Hillary was studying. It was cramming for finals time. She did not want to forget.

I started to see that little “I wanna cry” face a few times, but I told myself I was wrong. It’s probably just the wind whipping through the house, making her cold. I didn’t take any chances, however, so I asked Hillary if she wanted us to pray and thank God for all the good times in this house. She did. So we held hands in that cold and drafty gutted-out mess of a house, that house where Hillary left for her first day of school, the place where magical creatures like Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny brought wonder to that child’s imagination, the site of bed-snuggles and family nights and fevers and boo-boos and birthday parties and loose teeth and special suppers and homemade cookies and every single one of Hillary’s memories that defined “home”—and we prayed. And God saw it. And it was good.

Then, like a march to an execution we began our last trip out of that house of memories, though an eight-year-old seemed to skip playfully more than shuffle in shackles even if the journey was final and difficult. She made the declaration on her way out that this would be the last time she stepped foot in that house. She didn’t say it in such a sad voice, but she said it from a sad heart. The house had to have been sad, too.

The bone-chilling wind was just a bit colder on the outside of the house, and I was ready for some heat in the car, but Hillary wanted one more treasure-hunting trip to the front ditch where we had tossed our belongings for debris removal months earlier. Like a good father, I said, “Okay, don’t step on a nail. I’ll be in the car.”

This was another in my long line of parental mistakes.

The good news is that she didn’t step on a nail. The bad news is that she saw her prize-winning science fair display ground into the front ditch. That was not good at all.

She made it into the car without crying. She bravely mentioned that she had spotted something very important to her in the front ditch, then went on to share what it was. She had the face-thing going full strength now, doing her best not to cry. We told the house good-bye, made one last drive-by of the front ditch, and we made it part of the way down the road before she lost it. As always, Hillary had my full permission to do just that.

Fifteen years later I still remember the lesson that little girl taught me: Closure matters. Even if it is a weak substitute for normal methods, it matters.

It is hard to explain and even harder to fathom, but we think back on those hurricane stories with some odd type of fondness now. It turned out to be a special and unforgettable time in our lives.

It is my prayer that our graduates can do that someday, too. But for now, and this weekend in particular, let’s make up some kind of moment to close the door on a special time. And it is more than okay if it brings a tear.

Birthday Trips

IMG_0199Last night I attended the iHeartRadio Music Awards at The Forum in Inglewood with my oldest daughter, Erica. The celebrity-studded awards show featured mega-stars like Bon Jovi, Eminem, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, Maroon 5, Camila Cabello, Charlie Puth, and N.E.R.D. Surprisingly, I had heard of a couple of them prior to last evening. And maybe not surprisingly, me and Jon Bon Jovi aren’t teenagers anymore.

This was my annual birthday trip with Erica. Seventeen years ago I had a bright idea to celebrate Erica’s fourteenth birthday with a surprise father-daughter date instead of purchasing a material gift, which immediately became our annual tradition. That inaugural trip included a trip to the House of Blues in New Orleans for an O-Town concert, a boy band that emerged from the reality show, Making the Band. What would motivate me to take my daughter to a boy band concert and spend the evening in an audience filled with screaming teenage girls? The answer is love. Weird, inexplicable, father-daughter love.

My youngest daughter, Hillary, was a preschooler back then, but it didn’t take her long to ask when I would start taking her on special father-daughter birthday trips. So that tradition started, too. Over the years I have taken my daughters on all sorts of secret adventures in a total of thirteen states that have included road trips, sporting events, fancy dinners, museums, theater performances, celebrity stalking, theme parks, cultural experiences, concerts, television events, and now, even an awards show (see the crazy list below).

I guess I could start buying them gifts instead. But they might not let me. And I wouldn’t let me either. Making a memory together is a far better choice than purchasing a present. Trust me.

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Birthday trips:

Erica:
#14: House of Blues in New Orleans (O-Town concert)
#15: MLS soccer in Dallas, Texas (stalking Landon Donovan)
#16: Spring training baseball in Orlando, Florida
#17: NBA basketball in New Orleans (to watch LeBron in his rookie year)
#18: French Quarter Haunted Tour in New Orleans
#19: Championship tennis in Miami, Florida (to watch Maria Sharapova)
#20: Dinner at Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi, Mississippi
#21: Dinner at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi
#22: Wicked at the Pantages in Hollywood
#23: Driving across country on Route 66
#24: Jimmy Kimmel Live in Hollywood
#25: A tourist weekend in San Francisco
#26: Grammy Museum in Downtown Los Angeles
#27: Pepperdine Associates Dinner in Downtown Los Angeles
#28: NHL Anaheim Ducks game
#29: Horse racing at Santa Anita Race Track
#30: LA Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles
#31: iHeartRadio Music Awards in Inglewood

Hillary:
#6: Lynn Meadows, Marine Life Aquarium, and Chuck E. Cheese in Gulfport, Mississippi
#7: Exploreum in Mobile, Alabama
#8: Jazzland Theme Park in New Orleans
#9: St. Louis Cardinals baseball game at the brand new Busch Stadium
#10: Horse-drawn carriage ride in the French Quarter of New Orleans (followed by a Fantastic 4 movie)
#11: National Civil Rights Museum and a Redbirds game in Memphis, Tennessee
#12: Warner Brothers Tour in Burbank, California
#13: Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? (television screening) in Burbank, California
#14: House of Blues in Anaheim, California (Natasha Bedingfield & Andy Grammer concert)
#15: Hairspray screening in Hollywood Forever Cemetery
#16: A tourist weekend in San Francisco
#17: Pepperdine Associates Dinner in Downtown Los Angeles
#18: Space Needle and more in Seattle, Washington
#19: Seattle Seahawks game
#20: Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles

One Love

Fathers DayMy sweet daughters took me to reggae night at the Hollywood Bowl last weekend for Father’s Day. It was a beautiful evening that featured Ziggy Marley, and it was extra special to hear him perform his father’s classic music on a day that honored dads.  It was also a little, ahem, “foggy” in the Bowl on reggae night, and let’s just say that I was glad it was an open air venue.

You can’t tell from looking at me, but Bob Marley remains one of my favorite artists. My daughters knew this, of course, and it was sweet of them to endure an evening of reggae with old dad even though reggae probably doesn’t crack the top ten on either of their favorite musical genres list. Those two girls are sure at the top of my list of favorites.

I went about this whole dad thing unconventionally. I fell in love with sweet Erica before meeting and marrying her mom and skipped straight to the homework and bicycles stage of Erica’s life. And I was there from the start with sweet Hillary, complete with diaper duty and sleepless nights and everything that followed. They are different people with different talents and different approaches to life, and I have had different experiences with each of them. But they are sisters and daughters together who love each other very much, and I love them both with my whole heart.

It’s a stretch to claim that our unique approach to family formation is an ideal approach, but I have to admit that it has turned out pretty crazy fantastic for me. I have two separate amazing relationships with two separate amazing young women.

But it is one love.  And one heart.

Give thanks and praise to the Lord.  This dad thing has turned out all right.