Today is Bob’s birthday.
He’s my daddy.
When my nephew Gabe was little, he spent a lot of time with my parents. Not out of necessity but out of pure joy and excitement.
He was the first!
As Gabe began to talk, one of the first words he said was Bob. I guess he had seen my daddy respond to my mother every time she called, so he assumed it would work for him, too. To Gabe my mother was MeMe and my daddy was Bob. He’s never been Grandpa, Grand daddy or Pa Pa. Just Bob.
To everyone, except me and my sister, Bob is only known as “Bob." That includes his four grandchildren and his two great-grandchildren.
To my sister Bob is dad.
To me he is still daddy.
Bob is 88 years old today.
Several years ago Bob had knee replacement surgery. It was a surgery he said he would never have. He was determined to stick with the knee he had been given instead of trading it in for a new one. He would remind us that he was pretty impressed with God’s workmanship. He dared us to find something as old as his knee, that had never been repaired, and to see if it worked as well as his knee.
But, after much prayer and way too much pain, he agreed to the surgery.
We were well aware of the risks that came with the surgery but still found ourselves, days after a successful replacement, in complete shock when the doctors told us daddy’s kidneys were failing and that there wasn’t anything else they could do. His kidneys were functioning at 25% before the surgery and apparently the trauma of the surgery was too much for them.
I was reminded how quickly life can change. One minute I had been standing by my daddy’s bed, amazed how well he was doing, and then after a few words from the doctor, I wasn’t standing at all. The ground had fallen out from under me.
I hate that feeling.
Don’t we all?
I’ve never been one to think my parents were going to live forever. Ethan’s injury has taught me that pretending bad things won’t happen doesn’t keep them from happening. Life is full of realities. Most of the time, too many.
Months before my daddy’s knee replacement, a good friend of his had passed away. I knew my dad was missing his friend. That he was missing a lot of his friends. My mom and dad were at a place in life where many of their friends were fighting terminal illnesses or planning a loved one's funeral. That had become their reality.
One day, soon after my dad had lost his good friend, we were sitting around the kitchen table. I hadn't planned to have a deep conversation with my daddy that day but I found myself telling him that when his time came that I didn’t want him to be fearful about anything. I told him that he never needed to worry about my mother. I assured him that my sister and I would make sure that she would always have everything she needed and that we would always be there for her. He told me he knew that. And once again I told him that I just didn‘t want there to be anything that he was worried about. He looked me in the eye, with a tear rolling down his cheek and said, “Worried? Why should I be worried? I‘m gonna hear Him call my name.”
That was the end of the conversation.
I could never name all the things my daddy has done for me. My daddy has loved me. He has loved my mother, he has loved my husband and he has loved my children. He has worked hard to provide me with everything I could have possibly needed. He also worked hard to give me way too many things I wanted. Bicycles. A pool in the backyard. My black Chevy Nova with a white convertible top. A blue Ford Mustang when the Chevy finally fell apart. A college education. A beautiful, fairy tale wedding and a down payment for the first home Jim and I purchased.
But, of all the things my daddy has ever done for me or given to me, his words at his kitchen table were by far the greatest.
“Worry? Why would I worry? I’m gonna hear Him call my name.”
I was alone with my dad when the doctor came into the hospital room with the bad news. I wondered how I would tell my sister and how my sister and I would tell our mother. I wondered what life would be like for me without my daddy and what life would be like for my children and my nieces and nephews without their Bob. I felt God’s presence but I also felt the pain that love and loss bring.
My daddy was sleeping thanks to the pain medicine and was unaware of the doctor’s words or of my tears. I tried to go to a good place. You know, in my head, in my mind. I had learned over the last years that sometimes the only time you make it, the only way you hold on, the only way you get back up after the rug of reality has taken you down, is to give thanks.
I thanked God that this sweet, kind man was my daddy. I thanked Him that he had given my daddy such a long life, most of it spent in great health. I thanked God that my daddy was loved by so many people. I thanked God for the example Bob had been to my children. I remembered a time when someone asked Ethan to pray for his brother who had lost his leg to cancer. The doctors had hoped the amputation would save this young man's life, but the prognosis now seemed hopeless. Ethan shared with me that he told his friend, "I will pray for your brother but I'll do something better than that. I'll get my Bob to pray for him." To Ethan, his Bob surely had extra clout!
I thanked God for the years my parents had together. And for my daddy's love that was woven into all of us. Sisters, cousins, original in-laws and the new ones.
But, the thing I was the most thankful for was the confidence that my daddy had shared with me. The confidence that he would hear God call his name.
Friends poured into my daddy’s hospital room over the next 24 hours. Prayers were prayed in Jesus’ name. There were prayers of thanksgiving for a good man. There were prayers of thanksgiving for having known this good man as a friend. There were prayers of submission as people requested God to be in control, for His will to be done. And, there were prayers that asked for healing. Prayers that requested God to allow Bob to be with us a little longer.
There was one woman who rushed into daddy’s room like a small tornado. She apologized for being in such a hurry. She quickly introduced herself to everyone in the room and then she began to pray. Her prayer was very brief. Have you ever heard someone pray where you just knew the angels were hanging on every word? Well, it was one of those prayers. She thanked God for His Son, Jesus. She thanked Him for Bob. She boldly asked for Bob’s kidneys to start working again and then she thanked God that they would. Her words, though few, were powerful. Her confidence amazing. All of us in the room felt it. She said amen and walked out of the room. She didn't hang around to visit. She did what she came to do, to pray. As the woman left the room, my niece looked at me and said, “If I’m ever sick, call her to pray for me.”
Bob’s kidneys were soon working as well as they had before the surgery. And he was quickly home doing therapy with his new knee.
It hadn't been his time or maybe it had been, but because of the prayers and faith of His children, God gave us little more time with Bob? I don’t know. We never know.
But, I do know with every birthday my dad has, the chances of it being his last, grow greater. You may think I am starting off the day too seriously. You may wonder why I'm even thinking such things.
The answer is because I can’t think about loosing my daddy, as sad as it makes me, without thinking of the joy my daddy is going to experience when he hears the words he waits to hear.
I know the loss I will feel when our Bob is gone will be great, but I also know it will be swallowed up in knowing that my daddy will be hearing a voice he knows so well.
That voice will be calling Bob. Bob. Bob.
Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.
And, I love the One that’s going to call your name.
And, the One that is going to call mine.