Hardly a night went by throughout my childhood when my dad, who worked a steady and sometimes draining job, did not read to me, play a game with me, pray with me and tuck me into bed. As an exhausted mother now, I value those memories because I know what a sacrifice they were. My dad probably would've loved to have sat on the couch in the evenings watching sports or reading a book. But he didn't. He came home from work and played with me, invested in me, helped me with school and taught me the truths of the Bible. Summers were filled with frequent trips to the pool and lake where he would play with me in the water and pull me and my siblings in a tube. He even taught me how to water ski at the ripe young age of... I don't know... 8 or so? That takes skill. He thought not of himself but rather of his family and was committed to being present in our lives any chance he had.
Looking back, some of my favorite memories are of the countless hours my dad spent walking around neighborhoods with me, letting me knock on doors and try to raise money for various charitable causes. I remember thinking that was so much fun and running back to him after leaving someone's front door, excited to tell him what donation I received. But, now I wonder what he thought? Wouldn't he rather have been at home watching a football game? Or doing necessary yard work? Or taking a much needed nap? If he was ever preoccupied with the things he needed to do, I never knew it. He joyfully walked around nearly every neighborhood in my hometown with me and I know he earned jewels in his crown doing so.
I used to love going with him to my brothers' basketball games and I remember cheering so loudly at a few of them, I lost my voice. Sometimes my mom would stay home with my other siblings and just my dad and I would go together. My dad was the coach and when I was the only other kid with him, he would let me sit on the bench with him and the players. He also coached my basketball team the one year I tried it out for myself. After getting the ball and shooting it at the wrong goal (fortunately it didn't go in), I gave up on the sport and resolved to just enjoy watching my brothers instead. I remember him introducing me to some of his favorite songs from the Christian radio station and cruising along to the games in his (extremely) modest ride enjoying them. And I remember sometimes being able to talk him into a cheap McDonald's burger after a late basketball game.
My dad was patient with me as I stumbled through my teenage years and despite the times that I destroyed his trust in me, by God's grace we were able to rebuild it. By the time I was introduced to Jonathan, he apparently trusted my judgment....
I distinctly remember the day I told my dad I had begun writing Jonathan. It had only been a couple days since I first heard from the guy I'd never met in Mexico and at that point he was nothing more than an acquaintance. Regardless, I thought it necessary to clue him into the situation. I told him in a doctor's office that I was writing this guy south of the border and that he was nine years my senior. From then on my dad nick named him 2-6, since Jonathan was 26 and I was 17. As our correspondence increased and deepened, my dad stayed in the know. One night my parents and I sat looking through family photos and videos of the St.Clairs and it was obvious that my dad recognized the seriousness of the situation. So, it came as no surprise to him when Jonathan wrote asking his permission to begin an official relationship with me. My dad's response to that message in not these exact words was, "I think you two are going to get married." We were engaged after my dad took the bull by the horns and didn't even wait for Jonathan to ask for my hand in marriage.... he just gave me away! Maybe he was trying to get me off the budget but.... I'm still on it! Thanks for your support, Dad! :o)
In the hotel room before leaving the US in January. He wept as he hugged me goodbye and as a parent, I know it is a sacrifice to send your child off even for a cause you wholeheartedly believe in.
I choked back tears as I stood beside my dad before he walked me down the aisle. He had been a wonderful protector of me and I knew I could always trust him. He had invested in my life and shown me love until I was introduced to the man who would take his place. He wept as we danced together at my wedding and as a parent, I know it is a sacrifice to give your daughter away even to a man you love like a son.
Now in my married life, I value him and the example he was to me as a parent. He has supported me fully in my decision to pursue mission work. He gave selflessly of himself as we lived down the road from my parents and he often took care of my son while we raised our support to come to Africa. He cared for Kyle during my three months of miserable pregnancy sickness with Ellee. He spent most of our family vacation back in November chasing Kyle around as I was unbelievably sick and Jonathan was smothered with seminary requirements. It brings tears to my eyes to think of him coming into my room on that vacation to take and clean my up-chuck bucket because I was unable to even get up to do it myself. He has a servant's heart. He thinks of others before himself. He makes sacrifices without even thinking twice about it. Like sharing his ice cream sandwich with his grandson....
Kyle snuggles just before we left the US.
Hugging Kyle one last time in the hotel room in Atlanta before we departed.
I cherish him in my life and I miss him terribly.
Can't wait to see you again, Dad! Come visit me in Africa!