Friday, December 17, 2010

A Daddy who Cares

Allen Levi wrote the song by this name. I listened to him sing at our Young Life banquet last fall, with a few tears sliding down my cheek, and was struck by how grateful I am to to be cursed with a daddy who cares. A daddy who enforced curfew, who asked questions, who talked with me about the birds and bees, who stayed up late while to two of us watched American Gladiators.
When I was sixteen, I took a chance at dating the "wild" guy. It was appealing to me, an innocent tenth grader, to take on a challenge of dating the senior with the crazy reputation. I held romantic visions that my pure, faithful personality would change him. Of course he would treat me with respect, because I was different than the other girls he dated.
My Dad didn't know this guy - or his track record - at least I didn't think he did. But upon meeting him, Dad told me he felt wary of my new boyfriend because, "He won't look me in the eye."
Dad didn't forbid me from going out with him. He didn't lock me up in my room. He just asked questions, and continually reminded me that he didn't trust this guy.
My father was right.
I walked away from that relationship fairly unscathed, but with enough hurt to learn some lessons. And several years later when I was home from college and ran into this old boyfriend, and he asked me out - even though he had since placed an engagement ring on his young fiance's finger - I was reminded of Dad's steady advice. And wished I could pass it on to his fiance.
I recall another fall afternoon, again as a 15-year-old sophomore, when I told Dad that I was going to my best friend Caren's house to spend the night. He took the time to ask again, "Just Caren's, right? Nowhere else?"
"Of course, Dad!" I hollered back over my shoulder, and I bounded away with my friend.
Caren lived just around the corner, and the grassy yards between our homes showed a well-worn path from a decade of constant back-and-forth treks of cartwheels and round-offs and back hand springs. This was just another Friday night, another spontaneous sleep over. But as we rounded the driveway, her older brother invited us to a party. On an impulse we hopped in his car (I don't think we even went inside Caren's house, I honestly thought we'd be gone for an hour) and I pictured Dad's face, and how I had just assured him we were going to Caren's, nowhere else.
But once at the party, held in an upstairs meeting room of a motel across town, one thing turned into another, one conversation into a hundred, and the party was in full swing when the cops busted in at midnight. They broke up a fight, surveyed the two-foot high tide of beer cans (among other things) covering the floor, and sequestered the handful of us fifteen-year-olds until they'd sent the entire swarm of high school kids home with MIPs. Then, at 2:00 am, they looked at us and said they were hauling us to juvie. With a little pleading and persuading, we talked the officers into letting us call our parents instead.
I will never, never forget calling my dad at 2 am.
From the Western Hills motel.
When he thought I was asleep in a house down the street.
But here's what I love about this story - I wasn't scared to call.  It was a relief to hear his voice. I knew he KNEW me, and I knew we'd figure it out, work it out, and at some point I'd have his trust again. I simply needed him, needed some reassurance of something strong in that scary situation.
My dad and Caren's dad caravanned to the motel. The police officers dumped out every garbage can of more beer cans onto the floor, showing the handful of parents every speck of evidence. When we got in the car to drive home, around 3 am, I felt safe. With my strong dad. Who loved me no matter what.
It was pretty quiet as we headed east on I-20 towards home. After a few minutes he said, "Can I trust you?"
"Yes, dad. I'm so sorry."
"Ok. I don't think I need to say anything else."
And I never lied to him again.
He had already spent years laying the groundwork in our relationship. I trusted him, and I knew he trusted me - the real me. I knew his expectations, that I'd disappointed him that night. And this minor blip stayed that way - minor - as Dad let it remain a molehill instead of a mountain. He continued to treat me with respect and trusted me, setting high expectations, and I learned that night driving home from the motel that I had no interest in disappointing him.

Thanks, Dad, for caring. For enforcing curfew (you said I'd thank you one day - I never believed it would happen!), for loving and trusting your daughter. I love you - happy birthday!
With our five-minute old Branson
High fives with Basden Joy
A good place to rest

Hudda and his Cap
Scaring Hud's friends with ghost stories
Choosing to sit at the "kids table" during Easter lunch
Always teaching...
"PLEASE take me flying, Cappy?!!"
Mowing with royalty
A playful stare from brown-eyed Cappy to brown-eyed Essie

Shep Heaven
One of my favs

You can get A Daddy Who Cares on Levi's new Favorites CD.
While Levi doesn't have a demo of this song on his site, take a listen to this other of my favs, Santa and Victoria, appropriate at Christmastime - touching and brilliant.