This question keeps running through my head as I run. In the early mornings, before the sun breaks over the horizon, when we’re pounding the pavement and the only sound is our breaths and an occasional passing car, I hear the words. Do I make you proud?
I only have one memory of my dad telling me he was proud of me. One time out of 32 years I had him as my father. It was a horrible time in our home. I was 18. It was late spring of my senior year of high school. I was a mom of an almost two year old. My wedding had just been called off by my son’s father and I was crushed. My future was up in the air and I didn’t know what to do about college. My grandmother had been in a horrific car accident and was in ICU. My mom had been spending most of her time at the hospital with my grandmother and this made my dad especially irritable and short-tempered. He had beaten me a few nights before. In front of my son, with my sister on the phone hearing the whole thing. It was one of the worst times of my entire life. Dad didn’t speak to me for days after the beating. And then, out of no where on one afternoon he came in the house and paused as he entered the living room. He turned toward me, eyes on the floor, and he said, “You know I’m proud of ya…” That was it. He turned and walked away.
At the time, I had no clue what to do with that. What did it mean? Proud of me for what??? And man, what a funny way to show it. The only way I knew how to deal with my father back then was to shove my feelings deep down under a lot of rage and anger and shove some food in my mouth, so I’m sure that’s what I did.
Dad was a coach. He was best known for his fast-pitched softball coaching, but he also coached basketball, baseball, and other sports here and there. My oldest brother was the only athletic one in our house. I tried to play basketball, but it was made very clear by him that I was not good enough to play seriously and I would be an embarrassment so I bailed.
I guess I’ve been wondering what dad would have to say about me becoming a runner. Would he be proud of what I’ve accomplished?
It’s taken me much of my adult life to admit that I longed for my dad’s approval growing up… and even still wish for it now. As horrible as he was as a father, I still long to feel delighted in by him. To know that he would be proud of the person I’ve become. I have to believe that deep down there was a reason for the way that he was… not an excuse, but maybe a way to understand why he did what he did…. and oh, I long to know he regretted many things and asked God for forgiveness in the end. I pray most of all for a chance to see him in Heaven. To know who he was without the narcissism and the rage. The way God intended him to be…
A few weeks ago, it worked out that I had to run 8 miles alone. As I ran that morning, the words Do I make you proud? Came back in my mind. I prayed for what that meant and what my soul was longing for. As I prayed, I looked up and glanced at the lake I was running by. I run this path almost every single Saturday and I’ve seen some amazing sunrises. This day was no different to begin with, but I saw something I had never witnessed before. The sun was reflecting on the water and it was just dancing and glistening and sparkling like nothing I had ever seen. This warm feeling washed over me. I felt delighted in. I felt like God was using that sight to cheer me on and tell me how proud he was of me.
I don’t know 100% if my dad is in heaven. That thought kills me every single day. I don’t know if he was ever really proud of me or would be proud of what I’ve done with the hand I was dealt on September 29, 2015. But… God has given me such peace. God has helped me to focus more on the few good memories I have than I do on the bad. He’s let me know it’s okay to feel hurt but it’s also okay to admit that I loved him.
So, I like to think my dad would be bragging on me to his buddies if he was still here. That maybe, just maybe, he would put his arm around my shoulder and say, “you know, I’m just really proud of you.”