Through the Eyes of a Little Girl

I have a vague recollection of sitting on an overly blown up tire tube sliding down a hill on the side of a mountain. Snow flying in my face, lips frozen, mouth dry from laughing so hard while the cold air froze me solid from the inside out.  Oh the carefree days of childhood.  Any worrying that went on in my life back then was by my parents.  My biggest concern was getting out of taking a bath each night, who has time for that?  My reasoning?  How dirty could I be?  A bath every single day was completely unnecessary.  And unpleasant.  But, it never worked, and each night I found myself in the tub washing all my appendages.  Oh for the simplicity of life to return to me.

Those were the early years.  Elementary school. Back then we started each day with the pledge and sang “My Country Tis of Thee.”  I used to try and sing louder than anyone else in the class, don’t exactly know why.  They say middle children are dramatic and need more attention maybe that was the reason.  Or maybe it was because Daddy told me I was “a good little singer.” Who knows?  All I know is I loved being the loudest.   Who cares if I didn’t know all the correct words or if I was on pitch, it was glorious to sing loud and have the teacher comment about it.

Life was simple and happy.

We lived in Colorado then, we were there because my dad was going back to school.  He was in his thirties and had three children, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing the calling he felt God had for him.  I don’t think I really appreciated the courage it took for him to quit his job, move half way across the country and start over until I was an adult with my own children.  If he was afraid, he never let us see it.  He just worked hard and didn’t quit till he was done. I’ve always admired him for that.

Daddy didn’t come from an ideal home life, although he never doubted his mother’s love for him.  She exampled a good hard work ethic and he took it to heart.  So, when God called him to a new season of life, he just packed up, prayed and put his head down and worked hard.  And on occasion, he played hard.  And that is why I was flying down the side of a mountain on an inner tube.  Colorado was a child’s dream, snow for snowmen, snow angels, inner tubing, skating in tennis shoes on the driveway.  We didn’t have much materially speaking, but I never knew the difference.  My parents did a good job of making things feel stable, and I was happy.

I have good memories.

It was the middle of the night, we (my sisters and I) were sound asleep.  We hadn’t had cookies and milk in the house in ages, it was a luxury.  But on this night we were woken up to a midnight treat of cookies and milk.  Daddy had splurged and gotten them on a whim and we all, my two sisters, mom and I sat around the table eating manna from heaven.  At least that’s how it seemed to my little girl imagination.

Those early years went by quickly.  Dad finished school, and his first job post graduation waited for him across the country.  So, we packed up and moved south.

There I was again, on the pavement after a fall.  Learning to skate on a concrete driveway was painful, and probably not the best idea.  But I was not to be defeated.  This fall did slow me down though.  Sitting there, all sixty pounds of me, leaning over my bloody, skinned knee crying and needing consoling.  He walked up to me, concern etched on his face, and I wanted to be braver than I was.  Instead of the expected hug and pity, I heard just the challenge any ten year old tomgirl needed…  “Get back up, you can do it.”  And so I did.

Daddy always seemed bigger than life to me.    And I wanted so badly to make him proud.

And then I was old enough to drive.  Daddy insisted I learn to drive a manual.   It was so hard and I didn’t want to.  None of my friend’s parents were making them learn to drive a manual, why did I have to?  But, he was not going to change his mind.  My first lesson was in a little red Ford Ranger and the clutch was “sensitive.”  Now as an adult I realize that it was just old and probably needed a new one.  I don’t know how many red lights we stalled in front of, or how many times I put it in fourth gear instead of second.  But, daddy never got frustrated.  He just said “Don’t give up, you can do it.”  He had way more confidence in me than I did.  He believed in me even though I was horrified by my failed efforts.

I wanted so much to make him proud.

Daddy never lowered his expectations, especially when it came to dating.  Old school, I guess you would call it.  Any boy who wanted to take me anywhere had to come to the house, get out of his car, and walk to the door to meet daddy.  I complained about it so much then, but looking back I couldn’t be more thankful that he did not compromise.  The poor boys who came calling for me, I wonder if any of them remember coming to our house and meeting “my dad.” He simply said “I will meet any boy you date,” and so he did.

High school graduation.  We had our ceremony outside on our school football field.  I will never forget when daddy came darting out of the crowd to hand me a dozen red roses to carry  with me as I paraded to my seat.  It made me feel so special.  I could hear him yelling my name and congratulating me when it was my turn to walk across the stage and receive my diploma.   It was such a big deal to me.

I could tell it made him really proud.

It was the day most little girls dream of, they day I was going to say “I do” to the man my heart had fallen for.  Daddy helped officiate the wedding ceremony and when he spoke, I cried.  So many emotions wrapped into those few moments.   My whole life this big strong man had guarded and protected me and now he was giving me to another.  It was the happiest/hardest day of my life back then.  We laughed through our tears.  It was beautiful.

Things would be forever different.

So much has happened in the years that followed.  Ups, downs, joys and sorrows.  I could tell story after story of how my daddy has helped me.  How he fixed our old cars in the early years of marriage because we didn’t have any money.  Or how he would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it. How he has loved his grandkids and accepted his sons in law as though they were his own.  How he’s lived out his faith when no one would’ve blamed him if he hadn’t.   I can honestly say that he is the most genuine person I know.  Transparent, the same no matter who is around.  Honest and loyal.  Lover of God and family and a friend to many.  He’s spent many happy years in ministry loving those around him.  Of course, he would tell you all of that is no big deal.

And then mom got sick.

For those of you who have lived through taking care of someone you love with every bit of your heart slowly wither away and die in front of you, the word hero never comes to mind.  And my dad was no different.  He just did what he felt was right.  He said more than once, “we married for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”  And he meant it.  For twenty months and thirteen days he took care of her.  Toward the end of her life, she was completely helpless and daddy was right there the whole time.  He never left her.  He took care of her every need to the best of his ability.  He took his commitment to her very seriously and he honored the vows he took as a very young man.  He slept on the couch next to her hospital bed every night until she breathed her last breath.  I watched and helped and prayed and marveled at the selflessness he showed in his tender love toward her.  The beauty and the pain of it all has forever changed me.

I am so proud of him.

And now, here we are, seventy years old today.  A lifetime for some, the beginning of a new season for him.  I know he would never choose to be in the place he is without mom, but he still gets up and chooses to have joy each day.  I am so thankful for that.  And, again, I am amazed at his strength and his love of life and for others.   His hair is white now, and he is more physically limited than he was, but he is still bigger than life to me.  I am so thankful that he was the first man in my life, the constant since before I can remember.

The early years of our lives are now a  fond memory.

A few days ago daddy was telling me that he went out to the cemetery to visit mom’s grave.  He prays to the Lord while he is there and talks to momma as though she can hear him.  This is nothing new to me.  But, what he told me about this particular visit brings me to tears as I write this.  I guess I can picture it in my mind’s eye and I am so deeply moved by the mental image.  I wish I had been there to witness this, although it is probably best that I wasn’t.   Here is what he told me, with sweet tears in his eyes.

“I went out to the cemetery to see your momma.  I miss her a lot today.  The old song by The Happy Goodman Family, “Stroll All Over Heaven” was on my mind so I sang it to her.  I sang it to her in my full voice, and I didn’t even care who was listening.”

Oh my heart.  I could just see him standing there by the gravestone, smiling through the tears.  White hair shimmering in the sun, shoulders slightly stooped from the weight of the grief.  His mind on happier times. He opens his mouth to sing and has to clear his throat so his voice won’t crack, but in spite of his best efforts, it still does.  Starting at the beginning he sings…

“I Want To Stroll Over Heaven With You”

If I survey all the good things that come to me from above If I count all the blessings from the storehouse of love I’d simply ask for the favor of him beyond mortal king And I’m sure he would grant it again and again

I want to stroll over Heaven with you some glad day When all our troubles and heartaches are vanished away Then we’ll enjoy the beauty where all things are new I want to stroll over Heaven with you

So many places of beauty we long to see here below But time and treasures have kept us from making plans as you know But come the morning of rapture together we’ll stand anew While I stroll over Heaven with you 

I want to stroll over Heaven with you some glad day When all our troubles and heartaches are vanished away Then we’ll enjoy the beauty where all things are new I want to stroll over Heaven with you 

I have no doubt that one day he will do just that.  When it is his time to go, he will meet my sweet momma at the gates of heaven and they will stroll hand and hand.  And as time goes on we will join them.  You see, this world is not the end, it’s only the beginning.

This is what a life well lived looks like.

This is what loving well looks like.

Happy Seventieth, daddy!

8 thoughts on “Through the Eyes of a Little Girl

  1. One word comes to my mind – Blessed!! You are awesome!!! I think you missed your calling but you are on the right track now!! ❤️

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing this, Sandi. You are a blessing to so many. YOu are surely blessed with writing your stories and they bless so mamy others.We will all get ot see our loved ones that ade it to Heaven one day and that is a beautiful event to lool forward to. Thank you again. Keep writing.

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