August 16, 1983, Dana and I were blessed by God with a little bundle of energy that has continued to energize and vitalize our lives for the past 28 years. On that day in Houston, Texas, Dana gave birth to our second daughter, Allyson Dawn. Even through the thickening haze of the delivery room, I could see she was beautiful...as I slid down the wall. You can probably guess that I am not a huge fan of husbands being allowed in the delivery room. I don't live and breathe Lamaz. I don't berate it, but I have to confess it was never a religious experience for me. I know! I know! Children are a gift from the Lord, and husbands should be interested in the culmination of the process, not just the initiation of it. I have heard it all, and I don't disagree with any of it. Im just saying that if you want me to cut the cord, you will find me with my head between my knees, seated on the floor, with my back against the wall, and cotton balls of ammonia in each nostril. Check please! I'm outta here!
A few hours after Allyson's birth, Hurricane Alicia hit Houston with a solid punch. Destructive winds, and torrential rain led to flooded streets and fallen trees. Resulting power losses forced the hospital to go on emergency generators. For two days, the fallen debris made it impossible for me to get back to the hospital to see Dana and Allyson. Since that day, I have often thought we may have picked the wrong name for our little girl. Allyson vs. Alicia is still a race too too close to call.
Fortunately, I have had the last 28 years to clear my head and to get a better view of what God was up to that day. I have needed every one of them. From the moment she entered my life, she has taken my breath away, in more ways than one. I was more than a little surprised by the challenge. After all, I was an old hand at the parenting gig. I had been broken in by her older sister, Ashley.
Between December 6, 1979 and August 16, 1983 I had been actively enrolled in Daddy 101. I didn't realize two little girls may come equipped with the same plumbing, but gifted with totally different personalities. What a surprise to learn that my effectiveness in raising one did not prepare me for the other. It has been a thoroughly humbling, and incredibly delightful journey learning afresh and anew the true value of the gift Dana and I received August 16th, back in the day.
Don't get me wrong. The scenery along the way has not always been pretty. The trip has sometimes had the chill and the thrill of a world class roller coaster. Just when I thought my lessons had been learned and the ride was over, I would hear the ominous...click,click, click, and her mother and I would hold on to dear life and shout out, "Lord, help us!"
As the scenes have sped by, some of what I remember includes:
- Diving into our pool in Tempe, Arizona to save her from drowning...twice in one day. I was fully clothed in my Sunday best, hosing down the cool-deck, and she was right beside me, holding my pants leg. Seconds later, I looked over my shoulder, and she was rolling over in the water like a dead fish. I dove in, pulled her out, and revived her. I recall hugging her and yelling at her all at the same time. She did it again that evening. Dana taught her to swim before she turned one.
- Racing after her in Borger, Texas. She was always running! This time she was headed towards the street and about to cross the path of an on-coming oil field truck. The driver and I locked eyes. He was terrified. He knew he couldn't stop, and I knew she wouldn't stop. I ran after her, and dove. I knocked her down, just before she reached the curb. The driver slammed on his brakes and with the sound of screeching pads, and smoking tires slid right past us. He had his head on the steering wheel, and I had my hands over her ears as I heard the Panhandle French coming out of his mouth.
- The valiant effort she made to stop sucking her thumb was epic. I saw her admiring a red wrist watch in Ann Holt's Boutique. She wanted that watch...bad. I told her I would get it for her if she stopped sucking her thumb for just two weeks. We went home and made a calendar and every day she brought it to me and crossed off a day she didn't suck her thumb. She hit her mark in 14 days. I still recall watching her sit in front of the TV set, and as she gradually fell into her comfort zone she would raise her hand to her mouth. Just before she put her thumb in her mouth, she would visibly shake and try to throw her hand away. It was a tremendous act of the will, and it gave me a little insight into what was in store for us.
- She always held us accountable to our standards. One day we decided to set the bar for watching TV in our home. If there was a curse word spoken by an actor, we would turn off the TV or change the channel. During a particular intense episode of some long-forgotten suspense show, a word popped out. With the remote in my hand, I kept watching, totally absorbed in the drama. She looked over her shoulder at me, nodding her head toward the TV and making the motion with her hand to hit the remote. I was really ticked, but God had placed a munchkin prophet in the house. I hit the remote.
- Breakfast at Burgee King! I started dating Allyson when she was almost four. We went to breakfast every Thursday morning until she graduated from high school. I held the door for her to get in and out of the car. I held her chair for her, and treated her like I would want a man to treat her on a date. The first time we went out, I taught her three little words to say if she was not treated with the kind of respect she deserved. "Take me home!" One Wednesday night we were driving home after a long day at church, and I asked her if we could go to lunch instead of breakfast. She didn't answer. It was very quiet in the back seat of the car. Dana leaned over and whispered in my ear, "That is all she has talked about all week." I immediately rescheduled the big event for breakfast, and she started laughing and talking again. Note to Dads: It is never too early to start treating the women in your life with the respect they deserve. Little girls get their self-respect from their Dad. Today we go to Starbucks.
- She has always been a great little sister. I always loved hearing Allyson brag about her big sister, Ashley. She always spoke with glowing praise of her beautiful singing, and any other achievement she made in life. Her total lack of jealousy for her sibling may be her greatest expression of her character. They did their share of fighting at home, but she always had her sister's back outside of the home.
- One day I called Allyson's elementary School to speak with the principal. The crisp, clear voice on the end of the line answered, "Bill J. Elliot Elementary School, how may I help you?" I expressed my need, and the receptionist said, " She is in a meeting, may I take a message, and have her return your call?" Something familiar about the sound of her voice caused me to ask, "Allsyon?" She replied, "Yes?" I said, "This is Dad." She responded, "I know that." In other words, she was at work, this was all business, and I should expect no special treatment. I was stunned at her poise, and professionalism. She was in fifth grade. Takes after her mother.
- She has the heart of a runner and the spirit of an athlete. Her junior year in high school she ran the mile and two mile event. The two mile came at the end of every track meet, and made for a long day of waiting. At the Georgia Regionals she was up against a solid field of accomplished runners and the eventual state champion. She finished second that day, by gunning down every other runner in the field on the last lap. By the stunned looks on their faces, they were taken by surprise. By the time she was heading into the final turn, every athlete and coach had taken notice of what was happening on the track and they were all on their feet cheering for her, screaming at the top of their lungs. They knew she could not possibly come in first, but they knew she ran with the heart of a champion. Dana and I almost passed out with parental pride. Priceless!
- Later that summer she accepted the challenge to skip her senior year in high school and go directly into her college studies. She crammed four years into three, and saved us a bundle of money by graduating a year early at the age of 20. Remember I told you she has always been a runner at heart. She missed graduated with honors by a fraction. Que pasa?
- She has always had a great love for people, and rarely meets a stranger. I have never seen anyone more adept at connecting with people, young and old. This has turned out to be a real asset. She is now a recruiter for Dallas Baptist University, and calls on businesses all over the metroplex to discover people who may have a need for higher education.
This past week Allyson graduated with her Master of Arts in Leadership from Dallas Baptist University. The University administration has expanded her duties and given her a significant raise as a result of her completion of her second degree with them. We are so proud of her accomplishments, and have a deep conviction that what we have seen is only the beginning. God has a great destiny in store for her.
When Allyson hit our beach a few hours ahead of Hurricane Alicia back in 1983, she took my breath away. She still does. Thank you Allyson for making such an impact on my life, and for allowing me the privilege of being known as Allyson's Dad.
God bless you! Love,
Dad and Mom