Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
By Debbie Roome
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She lifts her arms and I whirl her round and round until we collapse together, her hair streaming across my chest. “Enough!” I cry. “I’m too old for this.”
“No! More, Daddy! Please do it again.”
I stagger to my feet and haul her up with me. “Are you sure, Cherry?”
“Of course, Daddy.”
“Ok. Here we go!” I grasp her under the arms and we go spinning again; round and round and round until the world is a vortex of jade and sapphire.
At last she tires of our game and we plop down on the lawn, lying on our backs, allowing the sun to drench us with golden beams. All is peaceful and I revel in this time with my daughter.
After a while, she swivels onto her hip. “Tell me my story, Daddy. Tell me about my name and how I was born.”
This is something we do often and I delight in it. “Well. I’ve called you Cherry as long as I can remember. That’s because your skin is smooth like cream and your hair gleams like polished cherries. You remind me of a bowl of my favourite dessert. “
She laughs. “You’re so silly sometimes.”
“I so am not.” I lean over and tickle her before continuing. “Well, you’re five now so five years and some weeks ago you were born in a hospital near here.” I don’t tell her but I believe our births coincided. She was born by C-section; a tiny creature, tugged and pulled from the womb before she was ready. At the same time, I was dragged from the cocooned comfort of the abstract. From listening to a heart beat and watching a fuzzy outline to the reality of being a father.
“And you knew my legs were missing, right?”
“Yes, Cherry. The doctors had seen that on the ultrasound. They showed us the pictures and told us your legs weren’t growing properly.”
It wasn’t the only thing they had told us. Words like genetic defect and abnormality, quality of life and possible mental impairment had littered their recommendation to abort her.
“When Mommy and I heard about your legs, we decided we needed to pray extra hard for you. We knew a life without legs could be difficult so we asked God to give you a strong spirit and lots of courage; we asked that He would put a great joy in your heart.”
“And He did, didn’t He?”
“Most definitely.” My thoughts drift back to the operating room where a medical team was waiting after the birth. I stopped them as they bundled her up. “Let me hold her first.” I said. “She’s my daughter. I need to see her; need to touch her.”
“Come on, Daddy. You’re not telling the story.”
“Well, Cherry. It was a very special moment when I held you for the first time. You curled your hand around my little finger and gazed at me with eyes like melted chocolate. Now you know that daddies don’t cry very much, but I cried that day. I cried because I fell in love with you.”
It was actually the most profound experience of my life. The day that the word daddy took on new meaning. No longer was it just a word, an idea or a dream but it was who I was. Words like responsibility, protector and provider were suddenly framed in a whole new context. I wanted to surround her with love: with the freedom of boundaries that would allow her to mature into what God had planned for her.
“And then what happened?”
“When you turned one, we ordered you some legs. After work each night, I would strap them on you and we would go walking; Mom on one side and I on the other. You hated them but after weeks of tantrums and tears, you decided you actually did want to walk.”
“And now I can do anything. I can run and jump and climb trees and even ride my bike.”
“That’s right. You can do anything your heart desires.”
We lie silently for a while before Cherry leans over and kisses my cheek. “I love you, Daddy. Thank you for looking after me.”
“I love you too, Cherry.” I grab a hug before she runs off to play on the swings.
The word lingers in my thoughts for a long while after. Such a simple word but the reality is immense and unfathomable.
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