As we prepare to bring our first child into this world, I have become increasingly aware of the role my parents have played in my life. I wonder what kind of parent I will be to my child, and I know that if I can be just a fraction of what my parents have been to me, then our child will be just fine. Not too long ago, my grandpa told me the story of my father’s birth, and it reminded me once again of the enduring love a parent feels for their child.
My father was born on February 21, 1943 – on his parents’ first wedding anniversary. I’ve always loved this fact. I find it inexplicably romantic.
My dad’s father, my grandpa Joe, was in the service when my dad was born. He was in training in Louisiana, preparing to leave for the South Pacific to fight in World War II. It pained him to be so far away from his young wife, my grandma, who was pregnant with their first and only child, hundreds of miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They spoke often on the phone so he knew their baby would be born soon. He also knew that he could not leave to fight a war without seeing his newborn child first. He had to get home.
So, my grandpa went to his captain and asked if he could leave for a few days to visit his newborn child. The captain said no. My grandpa was crushed. He decided to go to his lieutenant, who he liked very much, and plead his case. He said, “I know we’re about to leave and I respect that. But my child is about to be born and I cannot leave without seeing him or her first. I’ll come right back. I just have to go home.” His lieutenant patiently listened and said “Listen, if we let you go, don’t try any funny stuff. Trust me, it will hurt you more than you know.” The lieutenant spoke to the captain and miraculously, he acquiesced, and the next day my grandpa was on a bus back to Tulsa. Late that evening he was dropped off at an old bus depot in the middle of nowhere. Not a sign of life in any direction. He was to wait for another bus to take him home. Silently, he prayed that a bus would come around the bend, because not a soul on Earth knew he was sitting out there waiting.
A few hours later, a bus pulled into the depot and took my grandfather home to his waiting wife and newborn son, Daniel Joseph Millsap. He only needed a day or two to make sure his wife was okay and to meet his beloved child. Everything was okay. Regrettably, the next day he boarded the same bus to take him back to boot camp. Leaving was the hardest thing he ever had to do, but he was satisfied and grateful for the opportunity. A father’s love – no, a parent’s love, knows no bounds.
My father is clearly the product of immense love and devotion by his two doting parents. My blue-collar grandparents worked hard to give him a quality life, and the love they showered upon him is evident in every fiber of his being. My three siblings and I have been the fortunate recipients of this byproduct our entire lives. In fact, I know this quality is one my mother loves the most in my father. He, like his own father, was destined to be a dad.
My dad and I have a very special relationship. We are very similar creatures, he and I, and we understand each other in a way that no one has ever been able to match. I inherited his blue eyes and broad nose, his painfully tender heart, his athleticism, his curiosity, and his receding hairline and knotty, bunioned feet. Thanks dad.
My dad is unwaveringly devoted to his family. Us four kids and my mother know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my father would do anything for us at the drop of a hat. He has always been there for us…every step of the way, and even as we have grown older and have moved on, his love and loyalty have only grown stronger, and for that, I am one lucky kid.
I love you, Dad!