One Sunday last fall, my pastor talked about the kind of consolation children receive from their parents. Moms are nurturing, he said, but the comfort dads provide is different. It’s special, somehow.
I happened to be sitting next to my 82-year-old father during this sermon. I elbowed him right then, hoping he would understand that I appreciated this about him.
He’s not a real emotional sort, and we don’t often sit around and share feelings and whatnot. But I could tell that he got the point of my jab.
When I was a little girl, I would sit on the curb and wait for him to get home from work so I could carry his briefcase and lunchbox into the house. This was long before the days of tobacco-free workplaces, and his clothes reeked of secondhand cigarette smoke. But I didn’t care. Daddy was home; all was well.
I remember sitting on the window seat in our family room shortly before I left for college. I would be going away from home for the very first time, and I was scared to death.
My dad and I talked about change, and he said he liked it.
Huh? I recall thinking. It’s possible to like change?
To this day, that conversation still gives me courage, even though I have yet to reach the point in my own life of liking change.
Years later, I lay in a hospital bed in Little Rock, recovering from one of many surgeries I’ve had to repair internal damage caused by severe endometriosis. My parents had made the eight-hour trek from their home in Kansas to be with me.
I remember my dad there in the room with me, just sitting.
Yes, dads provide a special kind of comfort, all right.
It’s funny how the tables are turned now. There have been several times in the last few years when I have found myself sitting in the hospital room while he lies in the bed. Recovering from hip-replacement surgery. Banged up after a bad fall. Being evaluated after a seizure.
Even then, as my parents look to my family and my sister for logistical support, I draw comfort from him as he banters with the nurses and jokes with me about how he and my mom have a standing account at the hospital.
During different seasons of struggle as a parent—when I find myself wondering how to raise children in this ever-darkening world or how to get someone to understand a particular math concept—my dad’s perspective is soothing.
“She’s going to be alright,” he’ll say. “They’ll be OK.”
He can say that because he knows my daughters. He sees their special qualities, enjoys their personalities and appreciates what they bring to our large, sprawling clan. He can
often see that better than me, caught up as I am in the daily grind of spelling words and driving to ballet class and trying to figure out why someone’s having trouble sleeping at night.
And sometimes, that’s all I need to hear. I don’t need a lot of words about what to do and what to say, just reassurance that they’ll be OK.
Neither of us knows what that’s going to look like for either of my daughters. We both understand that “OK” in God’s point of view may be vastly different from what we might prefer.
But whether the road ahead takes our family through green pastures or dark valleys (chances are, it will be some of each), we know our heavenly Father will be there to guide and protect us.
And that’s the ultimate kind of comfort.