Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wedding Planning and other Young-Adult Memories of my Dad

Two more posts to go in my series about my dad for his 60th birthday!  Thank you for the comments—I didn’t know if anyone would even be interested in reading these memories of my dad (and it’s fine if no one is), but it’s really cool to know that others are inspired by him and by his example of fatherhood.  Dads are so important!  And every dad is different and interacts differently with their children, but those that truly love and care for their families have an immeasurable impact.

Now on to my memories of my dad in my young adulthood…


The summer that my mom was dying, my dad helped me buy a brand new, reliable car to get to and from college and to use for the next 15 years.  Unfortunately, the very next summer, I crashed it.  I was working as the activities director at a camp in the mountains, and I hydroplaned during a rainstorm and went off the highway into a mountainside.  I rolled several times and landed upside down, hanging by my seatbelt.  Surprisingly, I was totally fine.  Not-surprisingly, the car was not.

I remember how strangely calm I was when the car started to hydroplane.  It was like time slowed down, and I had totally clear and coherent thoughts, including, “Oh, so this is what it feels like to hydroplane.  I am going to hit that mountainside.  I hope I don’t die; that would be really hard for Dad right after losing Mom.”  I’m glad that my first thought in that situation was of my dad.

While sitting in a police car as they finished the accident report, I called him at work to tell him about the accident.  I assured him that I was totally fine—miraculously, not a scratch on my body—and that he didn’t need to drive up to the mountains.  Who was I kidding?  Within an hour, he was at the scene of the accident.  I remember the surprise and relief that surged through me when I saw him approaching, wearing his suit of course.  I knew in that moment how much he loved me, that nothing would keep him away when I was in need.  Sure I wasn’t hurt physically, but I was shaken emotionally, and it was really nice to have him by my side.  I know my dad so I never worried that he would be angry that my new car was totaled—and sure enough, he never said a word about the car.  He was just glad I was okay.  I remember that he took me to dinner at the only restaurant nearby (a Burger King in a gas station!) and then he took me back to Camp and talked to the Director and Nurse to call him if I showed any signs of distress.  I was 20 years old, and my daddy was still looking out for me!

He made my 21st birthday a special occasion by spoiling my friends and me.  I invited a few of my best girlfriends over, and we sat in the dining room while he served us as the waiter.  We had Olive Garden fettuccine alfredo (my special request) and then he made my mom’s famous strawberry pie for dessert.  Later that week, he took me out for a one-on-one birthday date to The Melting Pot (a fancy fondue restaurant) and I remember that we discussed relationships and marriage because Ryan and I were seriously considering getting engaged.  I was also about to leave for a semester in El Salvador, so Dad and I were soaking up our time together before I headed out of the country.

He drove me to the airport on the morning that I left for El Salvador, and I was so nervous.  We ate breakfast at a Mexican place at the airport, and I could hardly eat my burrito because of the nerves. When we said goodbye at security, I started crying (and I am not a crier), and I remember Dad standing back and watching me go through security with a look of concern on his face.  He knew that I would have the experience of a lifetime (which I did!), but he really felt for me in that moment—I could see it on his face when I looked back over my shoulder and waved my tearful goodbye.

Shortly after I got back from Central America, we spent a weekend in Bear Lake, Utah, with my family, my grandparents, and Ryan.  My sisters and I stayed at a small condo with my grandparents and my dad and Ryan shared a hotel room nearby.  My dad knew that Ryan wanted to ask him for permission to marry me, so he made plenty of opportunities for that conversation to happen.  Of course Ryan was way too shy and nervous, so the conversation didn’t happen until the very last day of the trip when they were in the car on the way to the condo. Hahaha—typical.

My dad didn’t just say “yes, you can marry my daughter,” he talked to Ryan about me and who I am.  He told Ryan how much he cherished me and how he hoped Ryan would always treat me. He told Ryan that I am a people person and that I would always have many dear friends and people that I wanted to take care of—that Ryan would never be the only person in my life, but he would always be the most important.  He said, “If you want to be happy with Rachel, you have to realize that she is going to spend a lot of time taking care of other people, and you have to be okay with that.”  I think this advice is spot-on for my personality and I love that my dad knew this about me.   I also love that Ryan has always taken that advice in our marriage: he has encouraged me to develop my friendships, to spend time outside of our home serving others, to travel to see friends that I love, and to spend one-on-one time with my sisters.  Truly, Ryan is very much like my dad in a lot of ways, and maybe that’s why I was so drawn to him.  I couldn’t have a better father or husband!

Since my mom wasn’t around, my dad planned my wedding, and I must admit, he smashed it out of the park.  If he ever decides to give up being a lawyer, I think he could definitely be a wedding planner.  He had all these various spreadsheets with the guest list, the different options for venues and menus, and different possibilities for bands.  It was quite hilarious and endearing.

After the wedding ceremony in the temple—we call it a “sealing” because a husband and wife are sealed together not just for this life but also for eternity—family and friends come up to the bride and groom in a line and hug them.  When my dad hugged me, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I whispered how much I loved him and how I wished my mom could be there.  He said, “She’s here, Rachel.  I know she is.”  I responded through tears, “But I want her here—I want to hug her too!” and then I broke down into sobs.  My dad just squeezed me tighter and said, “Me too, Girl.  Me too.”  I can’t imagine what that must have been like for my dad to celebrate those milestone events in his daughters’ lives without his beloved wife by his side.

That night at the reception, he gave the most amazing toast.  He started it off by praising Ryan and all of the qualities that made him proud to have him as a son-in-law—and then he threw in a little of his signature humor when he added, “And on top of all of that, my daughters tell me that Ryan is ‘hot.’  I cannot be the judge of such matters; so all you ladies in the house, if you think Ryan is ‘hot,’ put your hands together!”  Everyone was laughing, hooting, and cheering.  It was a perfect moment.

He followed that up with an incredible tribute to me that I will never forget, and then we had our daddy-daughter dance to “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” which I know is meant to be a romantic song but the lyrics are perfect for my relationship with my dad: “You fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness, ease my troubles that’s what you do.” Truer words couldn’t be spoken about my dad.

Shortly after our wedding, Ryan and I moved to Buffalo, New York for Ry to complete dental school.  During those years far away from family, I talked to my dad several times a week, usually during my commutes home from my job as a teacher. I kept him updated on my students, my service work at church, and just my daily life.

He would sometimes call me for advice as well, such as when single ladies from our church started bringing him casseroles and he didn’t know what to do about it.  Hahaha!  I love it!  I never thought I’d see the day that I would be giving my dad advice on how to politely tell someone that he wasn’t interested in dating. ;)

I remember calling him when I was in the midst of fertility treatments, bawling into the phone about how I’d always wanted a bunch of kids and now I wasn’t sure if I would even get one.  He was so patient and supportive during those years, always offering wise words of encouragement and sometimes even sending flowers when I was especially down.

One summer, he took me on a trip to Jerusalem with him.  He has taken each of his daughters on one big international trip so he wouldn’t have to travel alone.  That was the trip of a lifetime, and I love that I got to experience the Holy Land with my dad.  There were serious moments of contemplation about the life of the Savior, such as our visit to the Garden Tomb, and funny moments of laughter, such as the time that Dad was forced to wear a “man sarong” on the Temple Mount to cover his bare legs.  (We didn’t realize you’re not supposed to wear shorts?)

I remember swimming with him in the Sea of Galilee, and we talked about if he would ever get remarried.  He has never dated since my mom passed away, but I don’t want him to be alone forever and I know my mom didn’t either.  While we were floating in the water, he told me that he just couldn’t imagine going on a date with anyone other than my mom.  He also worried how it might affect the dynamics within our family and extended family if he remarried.  He said maybe someday he will find a nice widow to settle down with, but for the time being, he was content.  It was a great, open conversation, and I love that we can have those sorts of talks.

A few years later when I was in the midst of my struggle with eating and body image, I mentioned to the family something about my “self-loathing” due to weight gain.  I tried to brush past it like it was no big deal, but my dad saw through it.  He approached me the next day while I was alone working on the computer, and he sat down next to me.  He said, “It broke my heart when you said you feel ‘self-loathing’ about your body.  You are an amazing person, and I never ever want you to ‘loathe’ yourself.”  I remember feeling so uncomfortable with this conversation that I couldn’t look at him and I just wanted to run away.  I am a very open person, but my eating disorder issues were a hidden shame that I never talked about.  Yet my dad was willing to have this tough conversation with me because he could tell how much I was struggling.  He said, “If there is ever anything I can do to help, like if you ever want to do any nutritional or emotional counseling and you and Ryan can’t afford it, please ask me.”  A few months later, I timidly approached him and told him about a counseling center that I had found to help me, and he willingly paid for my treatment.  Ryan and I never would’ve been able to get the help I needed at that time in our lives if my dad hadn’t helped us.  I realize how incredibly blessed I am to have this kind of support, and I want to “pay it forward” throughout my life.

My dad has been there cheering me on through all of the ups and downs of my life.  As I sit down to write these memories, I am amazed by how more and more just keep coming into my mind.  I set out to record sixty in honor of his 60th birthday, but I think I am going to have more than that by the end of the series.  He is truly a remarkable father and has become an amazing grandfather as well…more about that in my next and final post!

(Part five here.)


  1. Rachel! I have tears in my eyes! OMGosh, your dad. One of a kind. I am loving this series and the chance to know about such an incredible human being. <3

  2. How do you make me cry in every single post!? ;) I think my husband thinks I'm crazy, sitting here reading about someone I don't even know and bawling my eyes out. Thank you for sharing these with us!

  3. Rachel!! Oh how I remember that night of your accident! I remember your dad that night too! What a strong and loving man he is! I saw it for sure that night. I was so nervous about you coming to camp, but I trusted You AND your Father. Thank God!


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