I went away to college when I was 18. There was a lot going on in my life at that time – my parents had split up right after I graduated from high school and it seemed my entire world was changing. School was far enough away that I couldn’t just come home on a whim, but close enough that I could get home for the weekend when I needed it. You think you’re so grown up at 18. Going away to school was the best thing for me, but it was hard to be away from home when so much was going on there. I’m a middle kid, so the need to sooth and mediate was huge, and yet 350 miles away, I wasn’t able to do that. I grew up quickly, shed the debilitating shyness, learned to take care of myself. Even two years later when I moved back home, I was no longer a little girl. I’d become independent. I would never again be the girl my parents dropped off at college in the Fall of 1987. I finished school closer to home, got a job, and moved in with my brother. A few years later, I met Michael and a few years after that, we got married, bought a house and decided to start our family. I was a grown-up, paying a mortgage, building a career, working on becoming a Mom.
As soon as we knew for sure we were pregnant with Ryley, we of course called all our parents. They knew we’d been trying (we had to go the fertility treatment route so our families knew WAY more details than most do about the “trying” effort) and were so excited for us. Ryley was by no means the first grandchild for my Dad, but Ryley is *my* first, and every grandchild is precious to Daddy. We flew to Arizona to see Daddy and Mom Lois just as my first trimester was ending. It still seemed surreal, and we talked a lot about the coming baby. This would be our last trip for a while though. Twenty-three weeks and four days into my pregnancy, I started bleeding. The placenta was tearing away from the uterine wall. I was having contractions and dilating. I was admitted to the hospital and given an IV of magnesium sulfate to stop the contractions. The nurse put the fetal monitor on first thing, and the sound of Ryley’s heartbeat calmed my devastated heart. Michael was on his way to the hospital and he made the calls to his parents and mine. We had no clue what was going to happen, but we knew the whole game had changed. That was a Wednesday.
Daddy arrived on Saturday. By then, we knew we were in for the long haul. The bleeding wouldn’t stop, and since our home was considered too far away from the hospital, I would stay in the hospital until 32 weeks, or delivery, whichever came first. Daddy stayed for a week. He and my wonderful mother in law took turns entertaining me throughout each day. It meant the world to me to have my Daddy there. Yes, I was about to become a mother, but with him there, I could be his little girl and escape the worries for a few hours each day. My grief and my pain could be put aside or comforted just as he’d comforted me a million times as a child. When you have a battle to face, it helps to have your parents there encouraging and supporting and cheering you on as they always have. My Daddy gave me strength each day. I will never, ever forget the look on his face when they rolled the ultrasound machine into my room and Daddy saw Ryley on the screen for the first time. And I will always be so thankful for the time he took out of his life to come be with his little girl during what was the worst time in my life to date.
Michael says he can hear the change in the sound of my voice and even the way I talk when I’m with or talking to my Daddy. Honestly, in the past couple of years, there has been more than one reason for me to call Daddy and need to be that little girl again. And Daddy is always there as I need him to be. I am so grateful. I’m reading this book right now called The Middle Place. Nearly every chapter has me choking up with tears. On every page, there is at least one sentence that reaches out and just strikes me. But one that says it best is, “It’s good, like a miracle is good, to know that there’s somebody who will follow you down whatever path you choose.” That’s how I feel about my Daddy. I know he’s there for me, no matter what.
Last year when my sister passed away, I wasn’t even torn about pulling away from being Mommy to fly home and just be the daughter for my dad. It didn’t hit me until I talked to my daughter on the phone and she was crying missing me to even think there was something else I needed to do. I needed to be with my family – my original family. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t need Michael or the kids, but I just had to be home and not have the thought of being a wife and mom at that point. It took all I had at that moment to handle my own grief, and help my siblings and parents through that week. When it was time to come home, I was okay to come home and resume the roles of wife and mom. But Daddy needed me just as I’d needed him.