On This My Daughter’s Wedding Day

I woke up this morning just feeling nervous, anxious and a bit sad. Every time I’ve visited with someone about this day over the past couple months I’ve gotten a bit emotional. I haven’t known why and it’s really started to bother me. Yesterday we were setting up the venue for today’s big event and I was just grumpy. Last night when we were doing our rehearsal I fought so hard to keep it together. Right now, as I sit here and type this out, my eyes are welling up and my throat is tightening. I have literally prayed asking God to help me keep it together. I’m nervous that I’ll crumble to pieces while in my uniform walking her down the aisle. I’m tougher than that!! I can be stoic and emotionless!! I swear my testosterone is too low or something. What’s going on!?!

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I think I’ve figured it out. For 20+ years I’ve compartmentalized my feelings. I crammed it all into my ruck sack. I’ve never really mourned a loss of a friend or some other emotional hand grenade. Since Boulder Crest Retreat I’ve turned my heart back on. I’ve had feelings again. I’ve noticed how much more emotional I’ve been since February 2017. I think I’ve realized that’s why I’ve been feeling this way. Every time I’ve thought about this day I’ve gotten sad. I believe it’s because of unfinished business, possibly. I remember a few years back (she was about 19) when my daughter asked me a question about something. I said to her, “I’m sorry. I’m thought I showed you how to do that”. She said with a beautiful smile, “It’s OK, dad. You were never around much anyway”. I didn’t say a word and those words pierced my heart. Remembering that this morning helped me realize why I’m so sad about this. It’s like I’m holding onto a thread and she’s pulling away. Inside my mind is screaming, “WAIT!!! I HAVE MORE TO TEACH YOU! I WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOU!!! PLEASE, DON’T GO”!!

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See, my daughter moved out of the house when she was 17. It was January of her senior year in high school. I would say that our home was the typical home of a blended family with teenagers. It wasn’t easy but we did the best with what we knew how to do things. Stack on top of that (compound effect), there was ME and all my baggage. I wasn’t the sweetest dad. I wouldn’t say I was mean but I certainly wasn’t understanding, patient and did not give grace for mistakes. I said mean things to my kids. I would belittle them, curse at them and beat them down instead of lift them up. I would continually cut them with the proverbial papercuts through my words. I never laid a hand on my kids but I didn’t have to. My words were enough to express disappointment in their normal teenage actions. I made mistakes and it wasn’t until my awakening at Boulder Crest Retreat that I realized all this. Back to today, I feel I have unfinished business. People say, “Kids are resilient”. That may be true but they are the most precious beings on the planet. Just because they’re resilient doesn’t mean they’re punching bags. I believe I have the greatest 4 kids out of all the kids I know. What they have endured with me and who they are today is a testament to their resiliency.

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Back to why I feel the way I do. This morning I woke up thinking about my gem of a daughter. I was thinking back to when she would sit on my lap and watch Blue’s Clues. Her hair was so long and soft. She would look up at me with those big green eyes and laugh. I remember when she got sick and was in the hospital in Germany. I remember holding her tiny little hand going on walks around the little German town we lived in. As she grew I remember how musical she became and how much she loved to sing. She entered a beauty pageant when she was 10 or so and sang “This Little Light of Mine”. She was the leader of my kids and her brothers. That’s why God made her the oldest with 5 younger brothers. They have always looked up to her as the leader. I can relate to that because I have always looked up to my older sister as my protector and one person I could confide in. The divorce was rough on my daughter. More on her than her brothers because she was the oldest. No matter what her mommy and daddy were doing or saying to each other she remained the rock for her brothers. That young lady had her ruck sack jammed full of other people’s issues at a young age. No matter, she rucked up and kept moving forward. During her teenage years I was still deploying and gone quite a bit. I was not the present father figure she desperately needed in her life. She had a step-dad but never really grew close to him. I had abandoned my most precious creation and left her to struggle on her own in this dark world. Back to being resilient, that young lady is the more resilient and most driven young person I know. People look at her now and may think she’s got an ego, is demanding, is “high maintenance”, and even snobby. No, it’s none of that. She driven and she’s a leader and those people are weaker than she. She’s able to continue to move forward in the absence of leadership or peer support. She’s an independent warrior, a thinker and dreamer. People may think that is great but what they don’t know is how her training was to become this epitome of a female warrior. The heartache she endured and the emotional torment she was put through, by me. What her friends and people who know her don’t understand is how she was raised. How she was “trained”. When my daughter was with her friends in school playing sports, singing or whatever, her friends’ fathers who weren’t able to attend couldn’t attend because they were working late or out of town for work or whatever. My daughter’s dad wasn’t there because he was in some third world country taking the fight to the enemy in a game where second place meant death. And she knew it.

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This morning on her wedding day I will remember how proud I am of the road she has walked. After rereading what I have written I think one thing that is making me so emotionally is the overwhelming feeling of pride I have for her. I would jump into a pit of lions for that girl, and win!!

Sunshine, if you are reading this, I am so very sorry for the heartache of your past. I wish I could make up for all the lost time with you while you were growing up. I’m sorry for abandoning you when you needed a daddy the most. I was selfish and only thinking of myself. I wish I could change it, I can’t. We’re moving forward.

Today is the most special day of your life. You have completed me and made my life worth living to the fullest. I love your new husband like a blood son. He is an excellent man and the model of what men should be and how men should treat women. You are blessed to have each other. I love you two so very much. You are, have always been and will always be my light on a cloudy day.

I love you,

Dad.

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