Posted Patrick Callahan on 6/21/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
Happy Father's Day, Maddie.
It was her first race with Girls on the Run—it was hot and humid. I asked her if she wanted to stop, and she said yes. We sat on a bench less than a mile before end of the race and watched the others run or walk by. The emotions of the day had caught up to her, and she began to hyperventilate. She was fearful of disappointing me.
I think I am like many fathers who look into their daughter’s eyes for the first time. It is a moment that will never leave me: a cry-less stare that communicates a wordless "all is ok." I can remember the drive to the hospital, the room, my wife—but most of all that one particular moment. Just as there is a unique relationship between a mother and a daughter, there is something between a father and a daughter that many try to express but no one can quite explain. Perhaps it’s some type of instinct that causes you to do anything for her—protect her, melt when she cries or just know this is what you as a dad are here for. I’ve never quite been able to place it. My Maddie has a crooked smile, she likes to braid her hair, she always looks for the positive, she’s the most beautiful thing I have in this world...and I am her dad.
Maddie will sleep until, with great effort, you wake her. She is now a teenager and craves one more hour of rest. But we have this thing, her and I: we run together in the morning at 5:30 a.m. And on the mornings of our runs, I have never had a single day where she has not met me at the door. I’ve never had to wake her. And with our tennis shoes on—the sun rising and the birds singing—we go outside to dance.
That moment she was born at the hospital I distinctly feared one thing: the day I would have to dance with her on her wedding day. I know I shouldn’t look at it with dread—but it is the handing over of her hand, my protection, my fatherly instinct to another. I know it will be hard for me, but in her own way, Maddie has made it easy for me. Every morning we run, even if it’s slow, is a day that we dance. I look forward to those moments.
She finished the race on that hot, humid day in Wilmington. I think she finished it for herself, but I’ll never know. We crossed the line together—a proud father and daughter. We both cried. Ask any wise elder on their deathbed what they wish for, and it’s always the same: just a bit more time with my children. "The days are long and the decades are short." She has given to me an endless lifetime of one more hour. What an incredible gift.