It was the toughest week of my life, but perhaps also the best. Here are a few things dad taught me during the final days of his life, even when he could no longer speak: Lessons from Dad’s Last Week
Christopher S. Clark is an award-winning filmmaker who knows that sometimes it is the unexpected twist in the story that makes all the difference.
And an unexpected twist with the recent birth of his son has likewise made a big difference in his life in ways he could not have foreseen.
His son, Max, was born a few months ago with a rare condition, known as blepharophimosis syndrome, affecting the eyes and the surrounding area and that will require several surgeries over the next few years for young Max.
“…the worry began to snuff out much of the joy I had experienced with my daughters at their birth. Joy and celebration were replaced with anxiousness and worry – worried about his eyesight, worried there was something major going on inside him. Finally, I had to just calm my anxieties with faith, and simply love him.”
The months since Max was born has taught Christopher seven important life lessons, including #3:
“Men want to fix things and move on. Some things you can’t FIX as we are not in charge of life’s curriculum, and what really needs fixing is probably you, and the way you see the things.”
Ken Craig recently announced on his blog that he and is wife are expecting their 8th child. They recognize that this is not normal in this day and age. Ken cites comedian Jim Gaffigan, father of 5, who said, “Big families are like waterbed stores. They used to be everywhere, now they’re just weird.”
Despite that, Ken reports that nothing makes him happier than his family. At the same time, he acknowledges that a large family comes with a special set of challenges, like getting somewhere — anywhere — on time:
And if you are supposed to be somewhere at 8:00 a.m., it doesn’t matter if you start getting ready to leave the Tuesday before, you will not make it before 8:12 a.m., as you will get halfway there before you have to turn around and go back because somebody is not wearing shoes, or socks, or pants. And you just pray it is one of the children and not you.
Read more about Ken’s announcement, Here’s to One More, on his blog, The Craig Report.
Editor’s Note: On Jan. 16, 2013, word started spreading that there may be more (or maybe less would be a better way to put it) to the Manti Te’o story than was previously reported. While details are still emerging, we will keep this story in our archives as is, but please keep in mind that, while Seti’s post was written in good faith and with the information that was available at the time, it appears the facts are not as reported.
While following football was a passion in my earlier years, it’s steadily become less so in recent years. And with the lackluster performance of my teams this year, plus a busy fall schedule, football has made barely a blip on my radar this season.
But one story that recently came through the stream in the middle of the MDB home page caught my eye. It appeared on the blog of Seti Matua, former editor of PolyInsider.com and MDBer on his blog called Le Folauga (The Journey).
The post highlighted Manti Te’o, a linebacker at Notre Dame. I would suspect that many people already know at least a little bit about Manti’s story. But for those of us who have been living under a football rock this season, Seti’s post is a feel-good, overcoming heartbreak story worth crawling out for. You also don’t want to miss the video Seti links at the bottom of his post.
It is a moving testimony of a young man who had the courage to follow a prompting that didn’t make sense to him at first, but in retrospect makes all the sense in the world (and then some). And, believe or not, it’s not just because he is now in contention for the Heisman Trophy.
Even if you’re not much of a football fan, read Seti’s post, Why I Would Vote for Manti.
Thoughts on Fatherhood from The Book of Mormon Girl
Joanna Brooks has been busy. You may have caught her a few nights ago on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where she had been invited to talk about her newly released book, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith” (watch her interview here or read her amusing behind-the-scenes account here). Or you may have come across her popular blog, Ask Mormon Girl, where she fields questions that range from the sincere to the hostile and offers an “unorthodox but friendly perspective on Mormon thought and culture.” Or perhaps you came across her name in Politico.com’s “50 Politicos to Watch” list or the Center for American Progress’ “13 Religious Women to Watch” list. All of this while teaching at a Southern California university. A busy Mormon girl indeed.
In the midst of all this, Joanna’s father recently passed away after a long, debilitating illness. As I read on her blog some of her thoughts about what her father has meant to her, I couldn’t help but be moved. Even though Joanna’s “Mormon journey” has been admittedly unconventional, and her choices may not have always been what he had hoped, he was always there for her.
I asked Joanna if, despite her busy schedule, she would be willing to share with our MDB readers any thoughts she had on how his example could help us with our parenting responsibilities, especially those of us who may be blessed with unconventional kids (is there any other kind?). Here’s what she had to say.
The year before I got baptized, my father would sit with me in bed at night, and we’d hold the Book of Mormon on our laps, and read from it together.
He was a busy man: a bishop, with four young children, a long commute to a demanding job, and a hectic travel schedule. But those nights he managed to carve out a few minutes at bedtime to open the Book of Mormon with me—I remember his warmth beside me, and the way he’d take a strand of my hair between his fingers and roll it back and forth, as we read verse by verse through Lehi’s dream, and in his tenderness I gathered a sense of how sweet and beautiful the fruit on the tree of knowledge must have been. So beautiful, especially, against the closing darkness and chaos of the world outside.
It’s this story of Mormon fatherhood I tried to tell in the first chapter of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith, just released by the Free Press (available on-line and at bookstores and major retailers). I wrote this book after a New York City editor told me Mormons were too “weird” for people to want to read about us. Ridiculous, I thought. And all the more reason to keep telling our stories. Until the world sees the beauty and humanity in our faith.
My father plays a tremendous role in my Mormon story. He was a man who always took his faith seriously and was a dedicated local church leader, but he also had a tenderness that came, I think, from being raised by a single widowed mother. His example reminds me of the verses from Isaiah that read “kings shall be your nursing fathers.” I love that seemingly contradictory image of the “nursing father.” I think it points to an ancient wisdom that nurturing and affection can come naturally from both parents.
Just about a month before The Book of Mormon Girl came out, my father died after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a debilitating neurological illness. I’ve thought so much since his death about his legacy to his children—a legacy of hard work, service to others, thoughtful parenting, and careful planning. We laughed, his children, as we remembered how he would plan and spreadsheet out his goals for himself, his family, his church responsibilities. He was, by education, a chemical engineer, and his career was in finance, so he was a man who loved a solid spreadsheet the way other men might love a thick steak or a fast car.
Let them govern themselves
But you can’t spreadsheet your children into a seamless Mormon future. You can try! But learning to make independent choices is a part of Heavenly Father’s plan, even when it’s painful for earthly parents to witness. Over the years, I certainly made some choices that diverged from my father’s plans for me. I wrestled with my faith. Really wrestled. And there were difficult moments between us—moments when he was trying to grasp who I was becoming, and moments I wanted to be free from both his expectations and his disappointment. He did not force me to righteousness, because he simply couldn’t. Still, I found my way through, in large part because of how he raised me.
I imagine him, now, sitting up late nights in his home office, the kids asleep, the house quiet, the scriptures open on his desk, diligently plotting out goals and priorities, but reminding himself always of the fundamentals of faith–something to hold onto as he tried to guide his family through the mists of the chaotic world and to its tender sweetness. Here are the three fundamentals I learned from my dad: nurture, plan, and then—let go.
I first met Corbin Allred in 2003 when a World War II movie he was in, “Saints and Soldiers,” was making the film festival rounds. He played the lead role of Deacon, a decent man trying to escape against all odds back to Allied lines.
He continues to act (that’s him with the spiffy ‘do in the follow-up, Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed, coming soon to a theater near you), but now he has the added responsibilities of being a husband and father.
Recently, Corbin and his wife, McKenzie, learned that the baby they were expecting had spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the spine.
Their blog, Meet Me in the Apricot Tree, follows their experience from diagnosis. It’s a riveting account. Here’s an excerpt from “Our Lives Are Split in Two.”
The doctor walked in…shook my hand firmly…and sat down. He let out a big sigh and spoke words that I will foerever wish he could take back. “Well, I’m really worried about your baby girl.”
The world stopped turning. In that moment, there was nothing else in the world that mattered. The triviality of current challenges caused them to fade from existence and suddenly…everything we ever knew…changed. It was like this doctor took a sword and split the timeline of our lives in two. When it comes to the words he spoke…there will forever be…before we heard them…and after.
Lily was born a few days ago. As you can imagine, it was an ordeal for all involved, involving surgery almost immediately after birth. Through it all, I was moved to read Corbin’s account of his daughter’s arrival in Lily Norine Allred is Here:
Lily joined the world at 4:33pm on 6/29/12. She was so tiny and beautiful. 4lbs 11oz and 18.5in. Sadly…they took Lily for assessment before Kenz even got to see her. Kenz had to go to recovery and wait almost 3 hours before even getting to touch her. Let me just say…Lily is perfect in every way that matters!!! Seriously…just perfect and gorgeous and everything we could ever want in a little girl and more. I got to spend a lot of time alone with her during the first few hours of her life as she was already so strong…never needed oxygen…just calm…and content…and sweet as can be. Lily told me that I was her favorite and that she’ll always be a daddy’s girl…but Kenz doesn’t believe me.
Follow Corbin and his family in their blog, Meet Me in the Apricot Tree.
As might be expected, there are many expenses involved in raising a child with spina bifida. A fund has been set up through Give Forward. You can find out more about The Little Allred Girl Spina Bifida Fund here.
A new blog, Bedhead Moms, encourages women to accept themselves for everything they are, a terrific and much-needed message that we whole-heartedly agree with. But what does it have to do with a blog about Mormon dads? Well, as it turns out, this week they’ve turned their attention to us. (This sort of thing happens a lot around this time every year. No idea why, but we think it is pretty great.)
In their “Bedhead Dad” series, Bedhead Moms introduces us via a collection of photo essays to a wide range of dads who share two things in common: their faith and their complete devotion to their families.
- There’s The Cool Dad, who just welcomed a baby into his home after years of struggle, including an adoption that fell through.
- There’s the Part Time SAHD (Stay at Home Dad), a photographer who also helps feed his family by turning nearly every square inch of the lot of his Southern California home into something his family can consume in Providing More Than Money.
- There’s the distribution manager for a major motion picture studio who loves those small, unforgettable occasions with his children in Enjoying the Moment.
Bedhead Moms has capped their Bedhead Dads week with a beautifully produced video tribute to fathers that is both funny and warm, Dear Dad.
Bedhead Moms was created by Wendy Santiano, who is married to Rod Santiano, whose terrific cinematography blog we’ve featured many times on MDB. We welcome Bedhead Moms to the blogging community and wish them every success.
Josh Tenney is one of those.
I’ve had the opportunity to know Josh through some key milestones in his life, from finally finding The One (took awhile, but she was worth the wait), to his marriage to her, to giddily expecting his first child, to her birth.
Anna Liberty Tenney. A little sweet-pea, if ever there was one.
I also saw Josh go through the pain of seeing his treasured Anna stricken with sunburns so severe, even with limited exposure to the sun and the protection of copious amounts of sunscreen, her eyes would blister shut.
Several trips to the doctor’s office later, as well as traveling cross country to the specialists at the National Institutes of Health in D.C., the diagnosis was confirmed. Anna has XP, an extremely rare condition that has changed how the whole family’s lives.
Some characterize XP as being allergic to the sun, but Josh points out it is much more than that.
“Each day, Anna’s skin is covered with sunblock and lotions,” writes Josh on his blog. “She must remain indoors to be completely safe. Before going outdoors on occasion, Anna must wear shoes, long pants, long sleeved shirts, gloves, sunglasses, and a custom made hat with a specialty UV-blocking plastic face shield.”
Josh has created a blog about his daughter’s life with XP. It’s called Anna Liberty: A Girl Who’s One in a Million, including this post here, which explains how the family is approaching the coming summer, with its longer days, but with the treasured warm, post-sunset hours, when Anna becomes a night owl.
Math for me seldom makes sense. But sometimes, when the one-in-a-million kid scores the one-in-a-million dad, it clicks.
That may be me in the picture, learning with my little brother the fine art of hammering stuff, though it’s the kind of scene that plays itself out every day all across the world: a dad patiently coaching his boys when clearly it would be easier to do the thing himself. But such dads aren’t as interested in the things they’re building as much as the future dads they’re building.
In the aftermath of the day of celebrating dads, a flurry of posts have emerged that demonstrate how much dads have made a big impact on our own dadness in the MDB community. Here are some highlights about how we feel not only about our dads, but our own responsibilities of being dads.
“Me: I can’t believe I have a patch of gray hair.
Anna: You have gray hair, Daddy? That means you’re old. (starts getting upset) I don’t want you to get old!
Me: I’m not that old, sweetie. I’m just a little bit old.
Wife: (pointing at my head in the mirror) See? It’s a patch.
Anna: You’re going to die soon.
Me and wife: ….?
Anna: (Starts singing) You’re going to die soon, you’re going to die soon…
I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate father’s day than to have your eldest daughter sing a song about how ‘you’re going to die soon’ upon hearing about your first patch of gray hair.” Josh Weed, The Weed (read Father’s Day Song)
“My sweet wife must be just a wee bit disturbed that I have resurrected what she views as a seemingly superficial appreciation for the Three Stooges after at least a decade of dormancy. She overlooked my mania for the three kings of slapstick comedy when we started our lives together back in ’84. As I have grown in the Gospel and in life, she probably assumed that I had matured out of that immature phase, and graduated to more settled, approved entertainment options such as soap operas and grisly crime dramas. However, I never really abandoned the Three Stooges; I just emotionally buried them for awhile, waiting for the right moment. Father’s Day 2011 is that right moment.” Richard Tait, Mormon Third Eye (read I See… A Mormon Third Eye Father’s Day Special! Serious Silliness: How the Three Stooges Blesses the Lives of Men of the Church
“Alas, my kids are stuck with me for their father. I don’t do sports and I’m no superhero. But I do try to be a good father. On occasion I actually succeed.” Scott Hinrichs, Reach Upward (read A Dad, Not a Superhero)
“Fathers, remember back in high school when we were on a sports team and we had to do two, and some times even three-a-day practices? They were hard. But in the end, after the buzzer sounded, the whistle blew and the game was over, all that roughness paid off.
“Having Macey home is a three-a-day (actually its more like an all-day) practice. But she is here. She is healthy. She the prettiest thing, next to her mom, that I have ever seen. She is 8 pounds and 10 ounces of pure joy. She is the light of our home. Its a good rough.” Scott Bagley, Macey n’ Me (read Best Father’s Day Gift Ever)
“Is that really so much to ask? One day a year when we don’t look at deadbeats or abusers and instead look at the good guys and say, ‘You rock!’ Not, ‘You need to do better,’ or make nudge-nudge-wink-wink jokes about how goofily sweet and clueless dads are. I think dads deserve better than that.” Braden Bell (read Happy Father’s Day, With No Qualifications or Guilt Trips)
“My dad always kept his ties tied. ‘Tie ‘em once and you’re done,’ was his motto. At the end of the day he’d loosen his tie, slip it over his head and hang it on his tie rack. Now I see a couple of my boys doing the same thing.” Kevin Beckstrom, Beckstrom Buzz (read Family Ties, or Thanks, Dad!)
Abel Keogh posted a link to maybe the best father-son scene in all of moviedom. Be sure to visit Father’s and Sons.
“Harry Potter’s parents are dead and his aunt and uncle are horrible. Luke Skywalker’s dad became a Sith Lord. Katniss’ mom was a vegetable for a while.
“The litany of media that portrays families as dysfunctional and broken and populated by selfish jerks is long and irritating, because I don’t think it’s fair. I think there are far more families that are trying hard to stay together and be a loving family than there are these other types.” Jared Garrett (read A Celebration of Fathers)
“In the hundreds of Sunday School lessons and Seminary classes that he will attend but rarely pay attention to, may there be something that sticks. May there be enough seeds planted that faith eventually fills his being.
“Give him strength to never accept the offered beer or cigarette, or myriad other substances that he is taught to avoid. May the Ginger Ale or the 2-liter Mountain Dew be the extent of his binge drinking.
“During his teen years when he likes me about as much as anyone likes BO, help me, Lord, to be patient and compassionate that I not give up. He needs his father.” Bitner, Modern Mormon Men (read A Mormon Father’s Prayer For His Son)
And last, but not least: In The Art of Manliness, Brett McKay shares with us his take on the 12 Best Movies About Fatherhood.
Okay, so maybe as guys we don’t actually carry the babies ourselves. But the fact of the matter is, the pregnancy experience is fraught with peril for the soon-to-be father who dares traverse that 9-month minefield unawares.
Fortunately, newly expectant father Scott Bagley shares with others about to embark this journey the lessons he’s learned thus far from his experience as he’s about to have his first child.
It includes such gems as Rule #17:
NEVER buy your wife Reebok Shape-ups as an after pregnancy gift.
And Rule #21:
DON’T be offended if she all of a sudden can beat your best friend in a burping contest.
Scott is a BYU-Idaho junior who works two part-time jobs and goes to school full time. He’s been married 11 months and is chronicling the experience of preparing to be a new dad in his blog, Macey and Me.
Welcome Scott (and Macey) by reading 25 Things NOT to do When Your Wife is Pregnant.