I am turning forty, and I still call my father Daddy sometimes.
And when I do, my voice still catches in my throat.
I’m still his little girl.
I always will be.
When I found out I was pregnant with Paige, I remember Clarke saying,
“One of the great things about having a daughter is that she will always stay my little girl.”
He knew this from watching me with my father.
My father is strong, unflappable, and focused–
Things you’d like from a heart surgeon.
Daily in the operating room I know my father displayed strength under pressure. He had to.
But the greatest demonstration of this characteristic came not in his professional life, but in his personal life when his two girls—my mother and I — needed him.
In 2004 my mom was diagnosed with cancer.
Three years later so was I.
I am often asked if my dad took control of my medical care– if he took charge and told me what to do.
Those people obviously don’t know me very well.
After all, I am my father’s daughter.
Nobody tells me what to do.
Not even my father.
That’s how I knew I had earned his respect.
He didn’t take charge.
He met each of my surgeons one time.
He knew immediately I’d chosen well.
While he wanted to know every detail,
It was because he loved me, not because he questioned me.
He trusted me.
Finally I knew I had graduated.
Grasshopper had grown up.
He has always been my teacher.
I have always been his student.
Life with him has been a master class.
He was a tough teacher.
He brought out the best in this student.
That’s what a good teacher does.
He doesn’t ask.
You just know.
You want to do your best.
You want to impress him.
You want him to take notice.
You want to earn his respect.
It’s taken forty years,
But I finally feel I’ve earned it.
It wasn’t in school.
Or with my grades.
Or with a job.
Or by getting into a certain college.
It was, instead, in the school of life.
The way I live each day.
The way I move through the world.
The way I raise my children.
The people they are becoming.
The home I have made,
The challenges I have encountered.
And the tools I have used to meet them.
I learned these life lessons from both my parents.
A girl could have no better teachers.
A thank you to my parents.
You are my supporters,
Mom and Dad:
I love you.