She Told Me She Loves Me

June 21, 2015  - by 

My father, Arthur Page Woods, Jr., was 39 the day I was born. The circumstances of my birth were a little unusual. My three older siblings were all born in the hospital. In the early hours of my birthday, Mom couldn’t sleep and decided to do the dishes. Soon she felt awful. Before long, things were bad, and my father called the doctor saying Mom was having some bad indigestion. But it wasn’t indigestion—it was ME—and the doctor knew the truth from the moaning he heard in the background over the phone. “Can you get to the hospital?” he inquired. “She can’t even get to the car,” was Dad’s reply. “We’ll be right over,” answered Dr. Anderson.

Not long after, he and his wife, who was his nurse, came to our home to assist my birth. Nurse Anderson had never delivered a baby. She was just an office nurse—so this was a first for her. It was a first for Mom because she had never had a “natural” wakeful childbirth. It was a first for Dad because he had never watched a childbirth. But they all managed just fine. Dad actually got to help! By the time my first cry sounded, Judy, Billy and Kathy were awake in the other room. It was a first for them to get to hold a brand new baby just after she was born. Soon an ambulance arrived to take Mom and me to the hospital—after the fact, where we apparently stayed about 10 days.

That part of the story was related to me by my mother. Here is a rare picture of me as a baby. I think that there was a special bond between my father and me because of that special birth experience he actually shared with me. He was a little more involved also, because my mother was overwhelmed by having yet one more baby at age 40 and other trying things in her life.

Dad had been rather strict and had high expectations of the older kids. He had changed his parenting philosophy in the intervening years, and rather adopted a “provide them what they need and step back and let them grow” way of handling Kathy and me. Whether that was from the prevailing child rearing ideas of Benjamin Spock or just being older and wiser by then, I can’t say, but reports of the marked contrast were often reported to me by Judy and Bill in the years to come.

All I knew was that he was my daddy and I pretty much had him wrapped around my little finger. Not that he wasn’t fully cognizant of the fact—he was, and didn’t mind one little bit. It wasn’t so enthusiastically received by Mom and the older children, as I got older and got away with murder, or, at least, very annoying behavior at times.

But, in retrospect, I have so much to thank my father for to a great degree because of the way he “fathered” me.

I thank him for my self-confidence. I pretty much knew I could do anything I put my mind to. It never occurred to me that being a girl was limiting in any way I cared about. I believed I could do, learn, or be anything. I didn’t have any reason to resent his ideals because they were not forced upon me. I felt no reason to rebel—I just pursued whatsoever I pleased, with his blessing. I never doubted he loved me or supported my interests. This opened the whole world to me!

I automatically loved the things he loved and shared with me—nature, science, the arts, literature, music. Whether it was our nightly bedtime stories with A.A. Milne’s World of Pooh, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, or other classics—all read with character voices and impeccable comic and dramatic timing, or summer camping trips to the Smokey Mountains and Mammoth Caves, or Saturday afternoon trips to Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, or the opera Carmen at the Cincinnati Zoo—I simply adopted an appreciation for all these things as a matter of course.

I figured out that Dad always made these things an “us” experience. Daddy, Kathy, and I all got along swimmingly when we went on our adventures—no fighting—“we” were together, and it just wouldn’t be the same not to all be together. The rest of the time, wasn’t always so cooperative between Kathy and I. It took years for me to recognize this aspect of our family life, and how grateful I am for these happy memories Daddy nurtured.

I wasn’t especially interested at the time in his politics or fascination with technology. But now, lo and behold, those, too, have become mine. Just like Dad, the only radio station I listen to is classical, though I don’t miss the static that accompanied the weak stations he had to listen to back in the 60s and 70s. My passion for trees is directly descended from his. British comedy, now a favorite of mine, I must admit, is a throwback to his Sunday afternoon UHF channel offering of Monty Python. Loud laughter and louder sneezing he passed along to me too.

Dad was happy. He loved life. He was fascinated by everything. Except sports. Me neither. Getting rich? Not so much. Climbing social ladders . . . uh . . . that would be a no. But learning about the world, art, history, space? Yes! Yes! Yes! It wasn’t hard to determine that such a way of being was something to emulate. I wanted to be happy too!

Now, Dad had, by the time I came around, started to wane in his religiosity. And, as it turns out, that, too, I am actually thankful for. Because I felt something was missing. And I wanted it, and since my parents didn’t impose anything on me, I was free to pursue it on my own. I did so until I found, after much trial and error, the thing that was right for me, the restored Gospel.

My teen years found me underappreciating the amazing gifts both my parents provided, but thankfully, by assignment, I got past that. My freshman religion teacher at BYU challenged us to go home over Christmas break and every night before bed, seek out each parent and tell him or her, “I love you.” I was so alarmed at the thought of doing that, but I accepted the challenge. And much to my surprise, instead of being annoyed that I was interrupting his evening study (without fail Dad spent every evening in his bedroom office), Dad was tenderly delighted.

Debra Wood 3
Only a handful of years later, when I was 22, I went to his room once again where he had read to us about Pooh and Piglet all those years before. This time, in the same bed, he was in the final stages of being consumed with cancer, probably the last day before he slipped into a coma. I talked to him about this and that, about his longtime friend, Charlie Taylor, who was on a deep sea fishing trip. When Mom came into the room a few minutes later, she asked what we were talking about. I said, “Charlie Taylor’s fishing trip.”

Dad, however, with his last bit of mortal strength, reached over and took my hand and sputtered out, “She told me she loves me.”

That is what mattered to him.

I closed his eyes on this physical world a few days later. These are the sweet memories I have had the blessing to carry with me throughout the remainder of my life.

Daddy wasn’t perfect. But all that is left for me in that regard is always knowing he loved me, and, gratefully, knowing HE knew I loved him. And I still do.

 

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  1. What a beautiful tribute. What father could ask for more? As I said in my Sacrament Meeting talk today (on Father’s Day):

    Today is Father’s Day, and as I look at the beautiful men in our ward family, many of whom are holding babies in their arms, or children on their laps, others who have wrinkles on their brow from worrying over their adolescent or grown children, whose knees creak and hips hurt when then kneel to pray over their grandchildren in these last days, whose white shirts are worn in the collar or whose shoes need new soles because they wear them every Sunday of the year (and often several other days during the week); whose wallets and bank accounts hover near empty most of the time even though they work long hours day in and day out, whose hearts are heavy and whose bodies are tired from carrying the ultimate responsibility for the health and well-being of several others beyond themselves, who try so hard to please their bosses, their co-workers, their wives, their children, and get so little affirmation or encouragement from the world and often not even from the ones they work so hard for…

    And yet. They keep loving us. Our fathers love us. As sons of God it is in their nature to love as He loves. Their “vast capacity to love”, as Pres Uchtdorf says, “is part of our [their] spiritual heritage”.

    Mortal fathers are imperfect to be sure, but it is a rare child on this earth whose father would not die for them if necessary. Most fathers waste and wear out their lives “loving” as men love; by teaching, providing, and protecting.

    When we think of a good father then, we can start to comprehend, in the smallest degree the love of God for us, his children.

    I love this quote: “If ever human love was tender, and self-sacrificing, and devoted; if ever it could bear and forbear; if ever it could suffer gladly for its loved ones; if ever it was willing to pour itself out in a lavish abandonment for the comfort or pleasure of its objects; then infinitely more is Divine love tender, and self-sacrificing, and devoted, and glad to bear and forbear, and to suffer, and to lavish its best of gifts and blessings upon the objects of its love. Put together all the tenderest love your know, the deepest love you have ever felt, and the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you, and heap upon it all the love of all the loving human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin, perhaps, to have some faith glimpse of what the love of God is.” H.W. Smith

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Ramona! You are so right. Oh if more books, songs and films would rightly represent fatherhood . . . when did it become cool to negate parents? Love you! Debbi

  2. Debra, your story brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful relationship you had with your Father.
    I lost my Dad in 2011, Mother hod passed away 2 years earlier. I miss them both so very much. Dad and I enjoyed a very special bond, you see I was his only daughter… Between two sons.
    My Dad was the consummate gentleman, in everything he did and said he showed me how much he loved and respected his darling wife and our Mother. He gave to her and to us riches greater than gold or anything money could buy. Even though both my parents were stubborn and would argue at times, they would both pray about whatever they were in disagreement about and never went to bed angry. Dad was such a gentle and kind man. Mother told us how he had lost his Dad when he was only 7 years old to the flu which ravaged many parts of the world after WWI. I can’t imagine growing up without my Dad. Dad took on the responsibilities of a son, a brother and a Father at a young and tender age, leaving school to go to work at 14 to help his Mother financially. He was always there for his 3 sisters as he was for us. He had a slight stutter when he became anxious or nervous about something, and I remember mother telling me that when he was young he stuttered so badly in school that he could barely be understood. He overcame his stutter in later years and I remember him going to a Dale Carneige course so he could learn to speak better, he showed me that it was never too late to learn and improve yourself. We grew up with a love of learning and our curiosity and imagination was fueled by both Mother and Dad.
    I remember lying in bed as a very small child waiting to hear Dad return home from work riding down the side of the house on his old Indian motorcycle after working overtime to keep house and home together. Then he always came in to kiss us goodnight. Mother was the one who not only read us stories of Winnie the Pooh and Brer Rabbit but from memory told us the old Grimms fairy tales.
    I was blessed to be only 2 years old when my parents opened the door of our home and their hearts and enquiring minds to the missionary sisters. Both my parents were such a wonderful example to me, however I had to learn the hard way (I guess it was my stubbornness…) that the restored gospel is true. I remember when Dad was called as a Stake Patriach and thinking as I still do, how great a man he was and still is – the Lord chose him to be a mouthpiece for him to help guide his children here on earth. Mother always supported him in all of his callings as he supported her. Mother was very quiet and so very talented, but she hid her talents from many except our family. She was an artist in the true sense of the word…not only were her drawings, paintings, sketches and sculptures wonderful, she appreciated the world around her and the colors and shapes of everything. She taught us all, including my Dad to appreciate the simple colours in a the trees, the patterns of the lichen on a rock, or the colours in the ocean and to take time to be quiet and look around us at all the Lord has given to us. I am so very proud of my parents – they also taught me about my Father in Heaven… And showed us how we can talk to Our Father in Heaven anytime we want, just like we could talk to our Father here on earth anytime we wanted to, and to receive guidance and love.