Don’t Be Sad It’s Over

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Look, I’m going to give myself 20 minutes to write this, and no more. I can’t handle it. I’m going to type fast, and be done with it. So you’ll get it, mistakes and all.

I’m like a lot of dads: I’m not THAT emotional, but man, when I think about my kids, my little ones, growing up and away… well, like I said, I can’t handle it.

I think about tucking them in each night, in their bunkbeds. We call it “Camp Dad”, and we have a whole funny ceremony. We have a hilarious pledge of allegiance to Julia’s “Camp Dad” flag, and a “Camp Dad” song we made up that makes no sense whatsoever and that starts Justice giggling. And then I take their Beanie Babies and set up a little talk show, hosted by Mr. Lobster, who can’t ever control the crowd, and we laugh and laugh.

And we keep laughing, and then we pray.

And then I kiss their foreheads.

And then I turn out the light.

I wrote all that in present-tense, but I really shouldn’t. That was years ago.

Next month Justice turns 21. And Julia turns 18.

“Camp Dad” is a memory. A very, very good one, yes… but a memory.

My wife, Carolyn, said something brilliant the other day. Someone had relayed it to her, and I’m glad she said it to me. She said, “Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy it happened.”

Be happy it happened. Be grateful. I am grateful.

I’m grateful for every loooong summer day in Florida. I passed on law school, and took a morning radio job so I could have time with my kids. We spent every afternoon at the pool. We walked, holding hands. We’d sing Veggie Tales songs, and songs we made up. We’d make up ridiculous pool games. And thunderstorms would roll in, and we’d hustle home.

Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy it happened.

We weren’t allowed real pets, like dogs, where we lived. I felt terribly guilty for this as a dad. But there was a pond behind our apartment, and Julia loved the ducks. The ducks had baby ducks! – but one night, they fell prey. We were so, so sad. Later, Dennis and his wife, Spot, (that’s what we named the ducks) had more baby ducks. Ten of them!

We counted them every day. We talked about them from inside our patio door when it was raining. We loved them. But they disappeared, too. Julia’s little heart was crushed. We went looking for them, but they were gone. We searched everywhere. I walked away, asking God, “Please – I couldn’t provide pets for my kids. Please – don’t break her little heart. Please let us find these – ” and a neighbor yelled at us.

Tucked in the corner, little ducklings. One, two, three… ten. All of them. Julia squealed.

The ducks grew up and still walked in line, all of them. Thank you, Lord, for tending after those little ten, and my little one.

Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy it happened.

We read so many books. Justice would pick out a fave, snuggle close, hand me the book and say, “Dis is a cwassic.” We read millions. I learned a lot about owls and moons and lost rabbits and old ladies, of course, whispering “hush”, for some reason.

Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy it happened.

All the Daddy-Daughter dances. I couldn’t hold it together then, and I certainly can’t, now, thinking about it. They’d play (darn them) “Butterfly Kisses”, and I’d look around the room at the other dads dancing with their little girls, and they were glassy-eyed, too. We all knew it.

We all knew we were done for.

They’re going to leave us, aren’t they?

I remember one dad with three (three!) stair-step, small daughters gathered around him, each of them slow-dancing with just him in their minds… but all at the same time. The smallest one was just grabbing a pants leg. They all had him. He just tried to put his arms around the three. How’s THAT guy holding up these days?

Daddy-daughter Valentine’s dances are over for us. I guess I get one more formal daddy-daughter-type dance song someday, but I can’t think about that, either.

Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy it happened.

I’m happy it happened.

Thank you, Lord.

I never deserved it.  But it happened.

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