You don’t remember the day you met PaPa, but I do.
PaPa had been in Lithuania with Uncle Dan, doing work. They’d left the day you were born, and had only seen you on FaceTime. When they came back, you were about a month old—big and squishy and in 3-6 month clothes, but a little baby nonetheless. I don’t think he held you…he was too tired, or you were, or something. But you slept in your bouncer, and PaPa looked over and said, “wow, he is BEAUTIFUL.”
You and PaPa have a lot of fun these days. He tickles your belly and takes you swimming in the big pool; he takes you on walks around the house to look at the picture of the pineapple. You love it when I “draw PaPa”—a simple face with glasses and scanty hair.
The weird thing is, PaPa is MY daddy. And I remember when he had hair that got in his eyes. It didn’t last long, but…it happened. He was a super successful lawyer and weekend volleyball player who loved Star Wars and Star Trek and Rich Mullins. He and I would go swimming, or we would go to the rec room at our church and play video games. That was pretty rare, though—mostly he didn’t get home until I was in bed or asleep, and he would say my prayers with me before changing out of his suit. I loved him the way you love your Daddy—I still do.
In fact, it’s weird now that I think about it, but PaPa and Daddy are the same type of person. They both love Star Trek and Star Wars, they have opinions about Tolkien and Lewis, they do a pretty good British accent and they have great beards. They’re both good at talking and being funny and informative at the same time. And they’re both good at understanding things.
When I put you to bed early and start crying because something is just too difficult to deal with, Daddy talks me down. You probably don’t hear his voice when that happens, because he is a soft spoken person like PaPa. And when I need someone to break a situation down and explain it to me, I call PaPa.
And if it weren’t for the one, I wouldn’t have the other.
I tried to talk myself out of going to Gordon College (or any college) because I wasn’t sure I could do well enough, PaPa told me to keep sending in applications. When I told him it was making me sick to send in applications, he said, “I don’t care if you barf—do it anyway.” And when I thought I might want to study abroad my senior year instead of staying at that school, PaPa listened to me and gave me good advice—I don’t remember what it was, but I ended up staying. And when I was in a low, low moment and wondered if maybe I should leave school, and leave Christianity, and quit in the biggest sense I could think of, PaPa listened and listened and listened. We were walking up a hill under a gray sky, and I was going on and on about the difficult, loss-filled year I’d had. I told him I was afraid I couldn’t handle it anymore…I’m not sure what I meant by that. But I told him, “I think I might lose my religion.”
PaPa said the smartest thing I’ve ever heard.
“Lindsay, there’s no religion. There’s one Jesus, and you either follow Him or you don’t.”
So I went back to chapel and I kept praying and I borrowed Rich Mullins cd’s from somebody because they reminded me of being a little kid and listening to PaPa’s voice singing hymns, and I kept reading the Bible and I didn’t lose anything, on purpose or by accident. And when I was busy thinking about all the things I had to do, I met Daddy.
I knew that if I ever got married, the man would have to be a good Daddy. Or else, what was I doing to my kids? I remember when I worked at Target, I would stand there for what felt like hours, folding the baby clothes. One day I realized, with a giant shock, that if I ever had a child it was my responsibility to make sure that child had a good, decent father. “Okay,” I said to nobody, but now I know I was saying it to you…to whatever child I would have one day.
Daddy is a wonderful man. The limits of his patience are hard to find. He spends hours reading long books and parsing verbs in dead languages so that he can understand God. He works hard all day, then drives nearly an hour to get home, and before he’s changed out of his work clothes he’s playing with you and having lightsaber duels. And he’s always been like that.
When I met Daddy, we were in a science class together at College, and there was only one seat left when he walked in…the seat next to me. Finally, I thought. A chance to converse with this weirdo I keep seeing. He always wore this dorky hat and he had a thick beard that I respected…I had yet to hear his voice, although I’d seen him play guitar at a “battle of the bands” a few years prior. He took the seat next to me, introduced himself, and the rest would take too long to tell. I knew quickly…within a couple of weeks…that he was a good man and that I was lucky to have him. I knew, somehow, that he’d turn out to be a good Daddy.
After I met Daddy, I met other people you now know…your Mimi, who smiled at me one day though I was just a stranger passing by her seat at the theatre, and your aunt and uncle, who were just teenagers then. And when Daddy took me to his church, I met Bubby, your grandfather. Daddy walked me over to his parents’ pew and said, “Mom, Dad, this is Lindsay—,” Bubby stood up, smiled, and held out his hand.
Bubby is a great Daddy too. He’s different from PaPa—he spends a lot of time with his dog Samson and he loves golf and going for long walks. He talks about twice as fast as PaPa. But he loves you as much as PaPa does. He loves you and he loves Daddy. He likes to joke and talk like nothing matters, but he can end up in tears at the drop of a hat, if someone is really in trouble. Or he’s talking about someone he loves.
When Daddy was a baby, Bubby would rock him and sing to him and pray for him. I’m sure he worried about Daddy…he worries about him now. Just like we worry about you.
Once, when you were just a few months old, you were feeling ill, and Daddy handed you a stuffed raccoon—you held it tight and cried. Daddy watched you, helpless, and it dawned on him that someday you might know real fear…not how you’re scared of the lady on Chicken Run, but REAL fear. And he didn’t know what to do about that, so he prayed to God.
See, God is also a Daddy. It’s hard to explain and it’s a little bit weird. But it’s true. That thing I have you repeat— “Jesus Christ…Son of God…” it’s more complicated than that, but it’s also simple like this: you can ask God for help like you ask Daddy. And you can ask him to explain things to you. And you can trust him.
There are some men in this world who are evil. The closest thing to evil you know right now is Darth Vader, and he’s your favorite Star Wars character. I don’t want to talk about evil for a long time. By the time you’re able to read this, maybe someone or something will come to mind. But that’s a long way off. I’ll just tell you what Daddy has told me…
“Evil can be flashy and loud and rely on shock and awe…good tends to be quieter, more subtle.”
And I’ll tell you what PaPa has said… “There is one Jesus, and you either follow Him or you don’t.”
Your relationship with Daddy, like your relationship with God, is out of my hands, as I’ve said before. Daddy is a good man and his faith is real. He looks at scary things with his eyes wide open, and he prays for you every night before you go to sleep. He knows, as PaPa did, and as Bubby did, and as I am beginning to, that only God watches all the time. The last thing we do before we close our eyes is pray for Him to look after you.
You will never have to try and reconcile the Perfect Father who is God with a rotten Daddy. And that’s what I knew all those years ago when I married Thomas Hunter. We look ahead as far as we can, and when we can’t see any farther, we trust God. Your Daddy and his daddy pray for their sons and give them advice and listen to them, and when they can’t do any more, they trust. Because God can always do more—maybe that’s why parents pray for their kids at bedtime. It’s symbolic. We want the last thing you hear before you go to sleep to be blessings. PaPa always prays before somebody goes on a trip…it’s the same idea.
May you be filled with the patience and wisdom of Larry Locke, the compassion and energy of Lawrence Hunter, and the understanding of Thomas. None of them are perfect—in fact, some of the stuff they like is kinda stupid. But I hope you see our Father who art in Heaven through them, over and over again.
Happy Father’s Day to Larry Locke, Larry Hunter, and Thomas Hunter. The best fathers in the world.