The Miracle Man

Sixty years ago today, a dark-haired baby boy was born—typical, I’m sure, in the way he screamed shrilly upon entering the world.

But within a few short years, this tiny human’s life became anything but typical. By age three, his very survival was deemed a miracle, and he would later grow up to father two daughters, one of them me.

dad-me-bike

If it seems a little ridiculous to portray one’s parent as a walking miracle, I get it. After all, the word “miracle” is a descriptor often reserved for children—the “miracle” of childbirth, the “miracle” of life, etc.

But I know one thing: if bringing life into this world is nothing short of a miracle, then so too is the act of sustaining it.

After all, having an active father figure, a dad willing to participate in his child’s upbringing, is somewhat of a rarity. And fathers who love their daughters unconditionally? Fathers who can’t be disappointed, despite their children’s biggest screw-ups?

That seems to be quite the miracle, if you ask me.

I’m pondering all this due to the timing of the recent holiday: people all over the world again celebrated their fathers on the third Sunday of June this year. While the day may be over and people’s thoughts have shifted to workweek monotonies and familial responsibilities, I’m still thinking about my Dad—and a few words he said to me (on Father’s Day, no less):

“You’ve never done anything that’s made me not be proud of you.”

Here Sunday, June 21st was supposed to be all about the “world’s best dad(s)”, but to a young woman whose self-worth has always been as ephemeral as the shedding of cottonwood seeds—my father’s words were a gift I will take with me to my grave.

Some might view his statement as blind acceptance. But I think it’s something everyone deserves to hear from a parent at least once in one’s lifetime. The sad truth is, however, this kind of unconditional love isn’t common. In fact, it’s nothing short of a miracle—at least it is in my world.

In the same conversation, we reminisced. We talked of his childhood and of mine, and I couldn’t help but think of the tiny miracles that had shaped his life and impacted my own.

We talked of his mother (my grandmother). We talked of when she suffered a debilitating stroke that should’ve killed her—but instead left her partially paralyzed.

She recovered, and lived her last few years happier, kinder, and more affectionate than ever.

Miracle.

When my stepmom was diagnosed with cancer not once, not twice, but three times, my dad was there by her side to offer his support, even when the disease that ravaged her body and almost killed her—nearly broke him, too.

But she fought and survived, and she is stronger and more beautiful than ever.

Miracle.

And perhaps most significantly, my dad’s life is, in and of itself, miraculous. I learned only a week ago that he almost didn’t live past the age of three. While a relative was babysitting, a certain oblivious but curious toddler reached up and pulled a pan from the stove—a pan filled with boiling hot oil that immediately burned 95 percent of his body.

The doctors said my father likely wouldn’t survive his severe second- and third-degree burns. And even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to grow hair anywhere on his body and he would be covered in scars for the rest of his life.

But despite days—followed by weeks—of horror for his family and what must have been excruciating pain, he did survive. In fact, the story goes that the mouths of doctors and family dropped when they entered his hospital room one random day several weeks later, only to see a little boy covered in head-to-toe bandages—literally running in circles inside his crib.

In the months and years to come, he made a full recovery and there was little to no permanent scarring. It was no surprise to me to learn that his community referred to him as “the miracle baby” from that point forward.

I’m sure there are many more miraculous moments that have characterized my father’s life. But the one that has affected me most significantly is how my dad has helped me see my life as the beautiful miracle it is—just by being the person he is.

In recent years, my father and I have gotten closer than ever.

Today, when we get together, we talk about everything from business and technology to mountain biking and his days of motorcycle racing. And I see him for what he really is: an incredible person with a love for so many things—fast cars and bikes, affectionate animals, and, most importantly, the ladies in his life: his wife, his mother, and his daughters. Sure, he’s made mistakes (which he admits humbly), but he has one of the kindest hearts a man could have.

dad-me-photo-booth

I realize that Moms may literally bring their children into this world, but any capable dad plays just as big a role in helping them navigate it. And I realize how lucky I am to have the presence of such an incredible person in my life to help me find my way when I feel lost. I also realize how silly I was to not spend more time with him when I was younger (even though divorce, shared custody, and blended families make these bonds all the more complex).

Because I despise the exclusivity of “best Dad in the world” claims, I could never make that assertion. But I will say that having this human in my life is nothing short of a miracle.

I love you, Dad—60 looks great on you.

 

 

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