Dear Phils,

Dear Phils,

It has been over four years since you last saw our children. You would be proud of the men and women that they have become in large part because of the man you were. You once told me that we were good spouses, but we were even better parents. Somehow we got it right. While there were so many days when there wasn’t enough of the two of us (we always had more children than everyone else) or enough in terms of resources. We never had enough time, enough hands, enough energy, and we certainly had no money. In the end, it didn’t matter.

When you met me, you had just turned 21. On paper, neither of us was a good bet in terms of marriage. I was older than you were and I had three children ages 3, 4, and 5. I had just gotten out of a marriage and was struggling to get my feet on the ground. You were the immigrant boy who didn’t grow up with parents who set an example for nurturing or even investment. Nobody accepted us initially. I never understood why you pursued me so doggedly even after I rejected you time and time again. While I eventually got smart and told you yes on the 20th time you asked me out (who could say no to someone who was counting the rejections), I didn’t understand until long after we were married why you chose me.

You chose me because you told me that you fell in love with who I was as a mother. You watched me with people and you watched me with children. As shy as I could be, you saw my heart and you were drawn to something you told me that you hadn’t experienced much of. When I finally smartened up, I saw a man who wanted to love and to be loved. You blossomed when Patrick, Josh, and Emily became yours. Your favorite word was dad. When we fell in love, it was quick. We both recognized that we were better together than apart, and being together was all that mattered to us. Eloping to the Chapel of Love after four months of dating didn’t look smart to outsiders, but how could I say no to the man who proposed by asking me if he could be the father to my children and any children we might have together?

It took us two years after the wedding to have Alex. Medically, it didn’t look great, but you were okay with Patrick, Josh, and Emily. More than okay. You simply loved the hours in the park, sitting in church together, and most of all, cuddling on a big bed reading many stories at night. Even after 20 years of marriage, you came in at night to hear the voices and the stories that I was reading to the children. You loved those simple moments.

Alex and Tim (see, I don’t have to call him by his nickname) finished our family and completed us. While life got crazy and while we certainly felt like we had moments of complete failures as parents because we recognized that in our choice to have so many that sometimes we would let people down, you put the children first over each and every one of your needs. You would rush home from work so that I could run out the door for my nightly run. You knew that run would make me happy and you thrived under those two hours playing with them. You had to have been tired, but you were fully engaged. You never complained and you often sent me away for weekend trips in Germany so that you could bond with the children after your deployments. It was as if you and the children conspired sometimes. They knew when I went away that you would eat junk food, stay up too late, and watch movies I would never let them watch. Who could forget coming home from church and little Emily saying, “Look! It’s Hannibal Cannibal Lector!” Excuse me?! I still can’t believe that you showed our girl that movie!

You took Patrick and Josh on wrestling trips and to Rome. You drove Emily home from all of the Baumholder practices so that she didn’t have to get rides from the ***** because they treated her like the pariah enlisted child. You loved being the parent that showed up to athletic events with the entire family in tow. There were so many of us that people always took notice. You loved church because we took the entire pew and, I chuckle, people always knew we were there. I would cringe, but you simply understood that they were kids and that they were good kids. The more people judged us for how many children we had, the more you worked to get ahead.

You didn’t believe in handouts because we chose to have as many children as we had. You did believe in studying and making rank as quickly as you could so that you could provide better. You showed our children that hard work pays off. You made your enlisted ranks the first time you tested on each and every rank and when Patrick was nearing the end of high school, you wanted to set the example for college. You still hold the record for the amount of Clep tests passed and you finished a bachelor’s degree in 18 months so that you could finish OTS one month before our oldest graduated from Bitburg High School. It wasn’t about competition, rather it was about showing through example what was important.

You were the kind of parent that worked with the children. I am a nervous driver, thus you got the fun of driving with five teenaged drivers. You held it together most of the time. I laugh when I think of the two times I remember that you lost it when one of them almost plowed into a brand new jeep as he pulled out of the driveway and the other driving in Colorado Springs. You attended Boy Scout meetings and campouts even though you didn’t like camping because you wanted to ensure that it was fun for the boys. You studied with Emily to ensure she passed the food handler’s test in UT so that she could get her first job. You never complained because you recognized that you had one chance to get parenting right. You hit it out of the ball park!

We had hard times with our children, and it bought you to tears more often than they realize. Once, after one of our boys messed up in a really big way, “I am disappointed, son, but I love you and we will get through this together.” I never loved you more than at that moment. Another one of our children had a cancer scare. I will never forget when you called me into our room in UT and you wept and wondered why it couldn’t be you. Then there was that time when you pulled me out of the water in Germany and told me in front of many, many parents that I needed to leave right then and there because our daughter was missing. Lastly, there was the time when you told one of our children that if people didn’t like who he was, that they had only liked the idea of who he was. You see, Phil had become the parent he had always wanted.

When you deployed, our youngest child had left the house. You felt a little adrift because our entire marriage had been build upon a house full of children. Few realize that you wanted us to adopt two more children because we had so much to give and we were still so young. It didn’t matter to you if it meant me quitting my job or that we would be giving up those selfish pursuits and time together. You simply wanted to give love and a family to those that weren’t blessed with the family we had raised. You thrived on watching your children grow into successful adults and cheered when they passed you. I will never forget you at Patrick’s medical school graduation. We were by far the youngest parents (you more so than me), and you were like a giddy boy! You looked forward to returning from your deployment and watching both Alex and Tim graduate from college, adopting the two girls from Vietnam, and becoming grandparents. You were in your element surrounded by the love of family.

On Father’s Day, I salute you as a father because more than being a soldier, and more than being my husband, you got it right. You were a man above all men in this area. Thank you for giving me the family beyond my wildest dreams and thank you for asking me out 20 times. Sorry that it took me so long to recognize the man you were.

L

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Comments

  1. You and your family were so Blessed. So many will never have one day of the wonderful life you had. You all are still Blessed with a lifetime of memories that many will never know. Here’s to Phil and his wonderful family with loving memories of this “Wonderful Father “, on Father’s Day!!!

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