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I will never forget that day—it was 1999, and I was sitting at a table enjoying a meal with my young children. A newly released song began to play in the background of the restaurant, “When a single mom . . .” and tears and memories began to flow.
My “dad” wasn’t yet my dad when it happened. I was only five years old when I became so seriously ill that my mother rushed me to the hospital, and he met her there. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong and determined that the best course of action was to perform exploratory surgery. I don’t know exactly why the doctors did what they did or estimated that I had less than a 50 percent chance of survival, but they did, and my mother and my soon-to-be dad worried. My mother describes this day as “the worst day of [her] life.” She went to my hospital room and prayed. She anxiously checked with the nurses at every opportunity. The surgery took more than six hours. My recovery wasn’t easy, but my mom and my dad were there for me. When the day arrived that I could get out of bed, my dad pushed me around in my wheelchair. It felt good to be in motion! My dad took time to play games with me. When I began craving spicy brown mustard, my dad was the first to go down to the hospital cafeteria and buy me a sandwich. As my mom has said to me, “he had then come into our lives and we were going to be a family.”
He and my mom married about a year later; I was their flower girl. One of the first things I remember about our new life together was the day my dad came home from work, and out of his jacket popped a little black puppy. The puppy grew and matured over the years. She came with us on every move. I was a sophomore in college when I received the call of that little dog’s passing.
When my second-grade teacher asked for parents to come and share their occupations, my dad volunteered. I recently found letters my class sent to him after his presentation. My letter read in part, “Dear Daddy, I was happy when you came to our class. Everybody liked when you came. Love, Lynn.” The other letters confirmed my written words.
My dad was the one who introduced me to football. When I discovered a journal that I kept in elementary school, I had to laugh. Not only did I record the Miami Dolphins winning their second Super Bowl, I even recorded some of their birthdays! Later in that year, an exhibition event was to be held in our area, and I recorded, “[T]he Miami Dolphin game is tomorrow. I hope my dad gets tickets. I want to see them very much. All together it would cost $4.25.” The next entry indicates that my dad invested in some memories. “I met some Miami Dolphins, Bengals, and Colts, and got their autographs.” Since it was before digital photos and social media, there are no pictures to share but I recorded it. Children grow up; stories are forever!
In the summer after sixth grade, I went to visit extended family. My aunt had given birth to a little girl, and it was my uncle’s first Father’s Day! On that Sunday while the adults talked, I saw a Book of Mormon on my uncle’s table. The blue sky and white clouds with a golden angel left an impression on me. Three days later, I lost my uncle to a tragic work-related accident. It was a time of mourning for our family. Fast forward to my high school days—I continued my interest in world religions. When missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on the door of our family home, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my parents. I had been told that I must wait until I was 18 years old to make any major decision about which church to join. I answered the door. My mother came up behind me and invited the missionaries in, and they were allowed to teach me. After my baptism, my dad listened to the missionary discussions to gain an understanding of what I believed so that he would never offend me, even though he was not interested in the Church for himself.
Soon after that, my dad pursued a career in aviation. As he progressed in his training, he took my friend and me up for an introductory flight. I loved it, and aviation was something I hoped to pursue, but life sometimes gets in the way of dreams. Fast forward again—my children and I visited the Walt Disney Resort. While we were visiting, Dad called and invited us to fly with him. Since my oldest son dreamed of being a pilot, he got to sit as copilot. Afterward, Dad took us back to his home where he grilled some steaks and made a salad. I learned from my dad that men can cook but most men don’t. When we returned home from our travels, I asked my children what they liked best about the trip. I expected to hear of an experience from their time at the resort. Instead they unanimously agreed that it was the day they spent with Grandpa!
During that trip, I remember the long drive back to our hotel. My children were asleep in the backseat of the car, and my dad and I had time to talk heart to heart. He said to me, “Lynn, I will always love your mother.” Many have taught that the greatest thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. I will always be grateful for the man who stepped up to be the dad he didn’t have to be.
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