“Dad, did I ever tell you you’re my hero?”
A few years ago our family took a trip to Oregon. One of the things that we enjoyed doing together was hiking. The Northwest is one of the best places to hike. It’s beautiful. As a mother I was pretty terrified the entire time. At the time Parker was 6, Taylor was 3 and hiking in mountains with various cliff drops and tiny bridges that take you across violent rivers is a mother’s worst nightmare. I kept visualizing my children innocently laughing, enjoying the outdoors and then running off a cliff and dying. Taylor on many occasions said to me, “ow ow ow, Mom you hurt me.” That’s because I had her arm in my overly dramatic Mom death grip. I have always considered myself pretty weak but my death grip is pretty impressive. Aaron would tell me that they were fine and to just let them walk on their own but he didn’t help the situation or ever calm my nerves as he would pretend to fall off the cliff himself just to irritate me. He would push my buttons until I yelled at him and then he would yell at me for freaking out! Family vacations…they are so fun! As much as Aaron found humor in terrifying the kids and I he always had the natural ability to stay calm in high stress situations when it really mattered. Dads have a natural instinct to protect the ones they love. Don’t get me wrong, Moms are really good at protecting their kids as well. They do it by not allowing them to do anything. They can’t get hurt or DIE if I keep them right next to me and use my Mom death grip… right? One of the great things about Dads is they do allow them to do things and even go as far to encourage them to do things that mothers may categorize as unsafe. (You know allow them to experience life and learn important life lessons) Moms have been blessed with strong death grips and Dads have what is often labeled as Epic Dad Saves. (Look it up on YouTube , it’s a real thing.) This is how a Mom and a Dad are able to keep small children alive. (With our powers combined…you won’t die) On one of our terrifying hiking experiences we stopped at some trail that I can’t remember the name because I was too concerned about the important stuff , scary cliffs. When we arrived, parking was only available right off the main road. Which I would like to mention is another mother’s nightmare. “Hey kids, be careful opening the door, it is highly possible it will be ripped off by one of the hundreds of cars zooming by who clearly don’t care about pedestrians.” Before we got out of the car Aaron turned to Parker and said, “ Son, do not get out on this side of the car! Our car is too close to the road. When you get out a car could come around the corner and hit you. Get out on Moms side! Do you understand?” Well clearly he did NOT understand because he completely ignored Aaron’s warning and proceeded to get out on the drivers side. The force from closing the door caused Parker to stumble backwards and he found himself in the main road with no regards to his surroundings. Sure enough a car came speeding around the corner. All I could do was scream “Parker!”but with one fluid motion Aaron reached down grabbed Parker by one arm and pulled him up into his arms. He brought him around to the sidewalk put him on the ground and looked him in the eyes and sternly said “Didn’t I tell you to NOT to get out on the drivers side! That car would have hit you if I wouldn’t have grabbed you!” With tears in my eyes he looked up at me and said, “Well that was close. Are you ready?” I responded very passionately, “NO I’M NOT READY! Look at what just happened. We should go home right now!” He laughed, told me everything was fine, and hurried me along by reminding me we will want to be out of here before dark because that could make things even more dangerous! During our hike I thought man if I would have thought to pull out my phone and record that scary life threatening moment of Parker, it could have definitely been included in a video montage of Epic Dad Saves and gotten 500,000 + views. What was I thinking?!
Obviously we made it home alive. Along with all the other adventures we experienced together which all included mini catastrophes that nearly killed me by anxiety induced heart attacks. That moment on the busy mountain side road always stuck with me. I was grateful he was standing next to Parker that day. He didn’t hesitate and if he had for just one second this story could have been very different. Would I have been able to do the same thing? I like to think that I would have but their was something special in this moment knowing that Parker was saved by his Dad. We take moments like this for granted. They happen all the time. Epic Dad Saves. What a special thing. To have a Dad standing next to you prepared to grab your arm and pull you in when life gets scary. When I first learned that Aaron had cancer my first phone call was to my Dad. “It’s not good Dad. He has cancer and it’s already spread to his liver and his lungs” I cried and I could here the concern in his voice as he tried not to cry with me. Even in his own fear he stayed composed to protect me and give me courage in what would be a very long and tiring road for me. Another Epic Dad Save.
Through out Aaron’s sickness he never let the kids know how really sick he was. Though our lives changed drastically after he was diagnosed, there were certain things he wouldn’t allow to be changed. There were several times that Parker and Taylor had friends come over and I always questioned him, “Are you sure you are OK with this? Kids are loud! Don’t you want to rest?!” If he would have said, “no friends over for the foreseeable future”, everyone would 100% understand. He had cancer! He always responded he was fine and that he wanted the kids to enjoy being kids, even if he did have cancer. They deserved to have a normal childhood. He wasn’t going to allow his cancer take that from them. Epic Dad Save.
Even in Aaron’s final days he put on a strong face for the kids. The kids came to the hospital ,to what they may not have known then, but to say good bye. At this point Aaron was really struggling to stay awake and talking in complete sentences was lost. I prepared them for what they would see before bringing them into the room. That he wasn’t acting himself, it would be hard for him to speak but to talk to him because he can hear what you say. When we walked into the room he was sitting up and wide eyed. I could see in his eyes that he was using all the energy he had left to focus on them. To give them their best Dad in their final moments together. They talked a little bit, they told him they loved him and he said he loved them too. Aaron never closed his eyes to fall asleep and Taylor came up to the side of his bed and hugged him. He grabbed her arm and pulled her up to his chest and kissed her on the cheek making sure to make a loud smooch sound. Taylor laughed a little bit and smiled. I couldn’t help but cry in that moment. He had seemed to have lost all mobility by the time they came to visit. How he found that strength to pull her up in that moment, I don’t know. Even as he faced death, he never forgot his greatest calling, a father. Taylor still talks about that moment. When you ask her what her favorite memories are with her Dad she always talks about how he would lift her up in the air and give her kisses. He gave to her what she loved in her final memory of him. Epic Dad Save.
So today on Fathers Day, (and everyday) I want to thank all the Fathers and all their Epic Dad Saves. They happen every day and I am so grateful for all of them. Weather it’s literally saving them from getting hit by a car, a conversation that brings a certain amount of strength to a very daunting road ahead, or just a kiss on the cheek. I thank Aaron for the father he was and still is to our children through our memories. I have also learned that a Dad isn’t just someone who happens to be a blood relative. There are all kinds of Dads and Father figures in the world. I thank all the men that have stepped in to help my family and have given my children the love their father would give by building derby cars, camping trips, fishing, fixing broken toys, learning to ride bikes, playing video games, simple conversation filled with love laughter and teasing. Sharing memories, giving piggy back rides, teaching how to tie ties, four-wheeling, wrestling and giving lots and lots of hugs. All Epic Dad Saves. Thank you dads, grandpas, brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, you are loved. You are important. You save lives.