As I was leaving my parents house yesterday, I hugged my dad and said to him, “Love you, Daddy.” I have called him “Daddy” all of my life. It never became just “dad,” but was always “Daddy” which seemed to be the German way.
Then my dad says to me: “Love you, too. You’re my sweet little girl,” while hugging me a little bit longer.
He had tears in his eyes, and it was one of those moments that you just want to hold onto for a long while. I then walked to walk to my car.
I am not sure why I cried. It may be because my dad is 80 years old and deep down I know life is fragile and short and because moments like this are so perfect, so important, so fragile, so holy.
I do not recall him ever really saying those words, in that way. Growing up, we didn’t say, “I love you” to one another; it didn’t mean we didn’t love one another or that we didn’t care, we just didn’t use those words. Love was understood not spoken.
In Germany, it is just not as common to say, “I love you,” my mom told me. But, after my ninth grade year in high school, I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes summer camp, and one of the speakers shared her story of learning the importance of saying, “I love you.” And I came home, and though it took me the rest of the summer, I finally got up the courage to say, “I love you” to my mom and dad. Three simple words that mean the world; and, they said it back to me, if a bit awkwardly. Two years after that moment, I was asked to speak at a regional FCA event and I shared this story of saying I love you to my parents. . . .It changed the rest of my life, in many ways.
This evening, my dad saying I love you then adding that I am his sweet little girl just moved my soul. We had gone on a walk earlier in the Portland neighborhood where I grew up. On our walk, we had strolled through the athletic fields of Hosford Middle School, which I attended from fourth to eighth grade; and I told my dad of the time I had burst into tears after striking out during a softball game, just after someone name-called me, “Corn-digger.” I also recalled a boy named Tyron making fun of me in sixth grade for being “prudish.” But I had positive memories too, like playing basketball with one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Nettles, as my coach; and I reflected on Mr. McMahon, my other favorite teacher, who taught eighth grade science. On our walk, my dad and I also spoke of extended family and life and relationships and the importance of love and Jesus and prayer and forgiveness and being there. I care deeply about my family and being close. I always have. From immediate to local to extended family here and in Germany.
So, yeah, we had covered a lot of territory in our short 30-minute walk, and when I heard my dad’s words “you’re my sweet little girl,” I just couldn’t help bursting into tears in my car, and I started to write it down — I wanted to remember, to reflect, to ponder, to capture the words like I capture photos.
While I was sitting there in my car in front of my folks’ house, my dad appeared outside my car door and knocked on my window.
He said he had hoped I hadn’t driven off yet as he wanted to give me another hug.
Sure, I deep down “know” my dad loves me and that I am his sweet little girl, but to hear it is huge.
Because, doesn’t every little girl want to be treasured by her parents, and to especially be her father’s “sweet little girl,” and doesn’t every grown woman also want to be treasured by her father, to be his sweet little girl.
Always and forever.