My Dad, with Jessica (22 months), at Yosemite. 2006.
I was 18, on a one-month visit to my family in California. I would be heading back to India in a week or two. My dad was driving me to the DMV to get my ID card renewed. I don’t remember the details of our conversation, but it went something like this:
“You’ve been in India for nearly two years now,” my dad observed.
I didn’t really need him to do the math, but I knew he was getting at something. “Yep,” I answered.
“Your mom and I were missionaries for a while. Sometimes it takes a lot out of you. I want you to know that we are proud of your, whatever you choose to do. We do everything we can to support all our children.”
“I know,” I told him.
“If you ever want to pursue a different path, we will fully support you. You can stay with us for as long as you like.”
I nodded. “Thanks.” I didn’t say much more. I wasn’t very communicative in my teens, especially in matters of the heart or mind, matters I didn’t completely understand or hadn’t fully worked through on my own.
But my dad’s words stayed with me, because I was struggling at that time. I held the struggle inside, as I did with so many things. For my first few years in India, I felt very alone, even when surrounded by people. I struggled with my sense of purpose and the way it seemed to mingle freely with depression.
I returned to India a couple weeks later, but it meant a lot knowing that I had a home to return to if ever I chose.
I was 21, sitting in a chair, a friend across from me helping with a last-minute application of eye shadow. It was the big day. My wedding day. The phone rang and a friend ran it over to me. “It’s your dad.”
I don’t remember much about the exchange, only that he wished me well, told me that he loved me, and that things would turn out okay. I tried valiantly to hold back the tears. I was in India, 8,000 miles from my family. None of them had met the man I was about to marry. Most of them were very concerned about that fact. We were in a Catch-22 because my husband could not get a visa to visit the U.S. unless we were married, so I hoped my family would trust my judgment. But the distance and uncertainty wasn’t easy … for any of us.
In some ways, I felt like I was having to choose between marriage and a supportive family, and I hated that. At 21, it was a hard decision, especially not knowing whether my husband would be accepted into my family. I knew that they just didn’t know him; if they knew him, they would love him, like I did. All they knew was that they didn’t know him. And he was marrying their daughter. Or for my siblings, their little sister.
When my dad called, I felt for a moment that connection with home. I knew things would turn out okay.
And they did. That uncertainty I felt is a distant memory. Twelve years later, we as a family are very close … in location, and in heart and spirit. (And everyone in my family prefers my husband’s cooking. Including me.)
It’s Father’s Day, and I was thinking that if there was a single word that could describe my dad, it would be supportive. The support that he has given in countless ways, to me and my five siblings, has shown a lot of things about his character. His reliability and loyalty. His love and concern.
His trust in God.
Over the years, I’ve realized just how much my dad’s supportive nature has been grounded in a deep faith in God, that everything would work out alright. That God had things in His hands. The whole world, as the song goes, and his children as well.
My kids are not yet teens, but when those years come, I only pray that I will have a portion of the faith and trust that my dad has shown over the years. I pray that I can show them, through my words and deeds, my faith in God’s perfect plan, my trust in God’s purpose for their lives, and my love for them no matter what roads they take.
To my dad: Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being the best example a father can be, by pointing the way to the Heavenly Father with your words, your actions, your life.