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Submitted by Dauna Easley

This story didn’t happen on Father’s Day, but for me it defined a father’s love better than any other small moment in my life.   This is how we reveal our parenting…our legacy…in the small moments.

From a very young age, our daughter, Kelsey, had to endure a significant number of hospital stays. She was very brave about these hospital interludes and accepted them with calmness far beyond her years.  However, following that trying period in her life, she was left with one residual, inconvenient trait:  every time someone left and said good-bye to her, she would cry.  It was quite emotional and baffling to her, but I think in a subconscious way she linked someone ‘leaving’ back to those scary hospital stays. She’d try her best but always collapse in tears.  She talked to me privately about it.  I comforted her and tried to reassure her that she would eventually outgrow it.

During this time, my husband had to go to Atlanta for business for a week.  We decided to make it into a family mini vacation, and the three of us flew to Atlanta together to spend the weekend having fun.

photostrip resizedBut when the three days were over, it meant that Kelsey and I had to fly back home for work and school, leaving Dad in Atlanta.  The good-bye in the airport was emotional, but Kelsey tried her best to keep her composure.  To help her through the transition, her dad promised to wave from the terminal when the plane left.  When my daughter and I were seated on the plane, we couldn’t see him. We quickly figured out the plane would need to move forward in order for us to see him wave.   But the situation got worse.  It was one of those inexplicable Atlanta airport delays. Kelsey started to cry quietly. We sat on the plane for probably thirty minutes not moving an inch.  This was before the era of cell phones, so there was no way that her dad could talk her through this or reassure her by phone.  He couldn’t see or hear the emotional upheaval she was experiencing.

Then finally the plane started to move….backwards.  Kelsey was never one to make scenes, but her quiet crying escalated into sobs.  Over and over again she sobbed, “I want to wave to my Dad.” She just couldn’t stop.

The atmosphere in that jet was already tense from the delay.  We continued to sit in our new location as the day turned from light…to dusk…then finally to darkness for another extended wait.   No explanations.   Kelsey continued to sob, repeating her plea to wave to her dad again and again. She and I, of course, both knew he was long gone by now.  I tried to comfort her or distract her in every way I knew how. A man to my left passed her some Lifesavers, but she just shook her head and continued to cry. The already tense passengers politely tried to endure this heart wrenching scene.

Finally, finally, the plane started to taxi slowly forward.  I dreaded the moment when she would see the empty terminal window.  As the concourse came into view, it was totally lit from inside, while the outside and the plane interior were in complete darkness.  It was a sight I will never forget.  There was only one person in the entire empty concourse, and he was standing in the window waving at a dark plane.

That’s when I also started to tear up. When the passengers around us saw him, I heard a collective gasp.  Some men in the seat just left of us broke into spontaneous applause when my husband came into view.  The applause spread to the rest of that large aircraft.  Of course, only the passengers close-by knew what that applause was really about.  Seventy-five percent of the passengers thought they were applauding because the plane was finally on the move.  But the people who surrounded us knew the truth: that applause was a tribute to a dad’s love.

Further Links

dad and little girlLearn about the twelve traits of a great dad, or read the awesome dad cheat sheet. Find out ten ways to be a great dad, or visit greatdad.com. Interested in organizations promoting fatherhood? Visit fathers.com, the National Center for Fathering, or The National Fatherhood Initiative. Lastly, Dad’s Adventure wants to help you become the best father you can be.

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