“You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.” ~Ernest Hemingway
I have never met anyone who doesn’t fall head over heels for my husband. He is friends with everyone. Makes acquaintances effortlessly. Sure, he’ll have trouble remembering your name, but he’ll remember your face for dozens of years to follow. He has as many childhood friends as he did when he was 18, more bromances and man-crushes than Justin Timberlake and currently, I believe I count at least 2, possibly 4 work wives. You all see what I fell in love with 12 years ago – the jokes, the stories, the laughter, the fun. Mike is easily the funniest, most laid back, most interesting person I have ever met and the true blessing of getting to be his wife is not lost on me.
“I’m so glad you’re marrying Mike. He’s my FAVORITE.” said a friend’s mother after she learned of our engagement. (Names withheld to protect the precious hearts of all of the other friends who are also favorites in their own rights!) Sure, I get the eye rolls, “Oh poor YOU!” from co-workers and friends because Mike’s hilarity is like an entity all its’ own. The longer you know him, the better the stories get. The more you become “mixed company” well, you’d just have to know him to get what I mean. But believe me, marrying this man is the thrill of a lifetime.
But what I see goes so, so much deeper than just the joy of being next to him. What I see is the enormity of pain and the quiet grace with which he handles it. So many fathers in this world of child loss become lost. Everyone recognizes the mother – they race to tend to her needs, check on how she’s doing. But daddies hurt too. I often wonder how many times people ask HIM how HE’S doing. I know what his answer would likely be, but I know at the heart of it, he hurts deeply. Just as I do. And he would give ANYTHING to be able to help me with my pain. Watching me struggle is so difficult for him, but what he might not realize is how his every day grace lifts me up. There is a quiet strength about him. He can hug me silently while I sob that says more than words. Escape for the weekend? Done. Hide for the holidays? No problem. Whatever I want. Whatever I need. He would give to me. Selflessly and in a heartbeat. Just as he would with Kate.
Born to be a daddy, that Mike Rhoades. And Kate lit up his life like the 4th of July. If Kate was my calm, she was daddy’s wild. The two of them would play and play and play until she’d crash. MAN was that girl bossy with her daddy! She’d order him around left and right. “Daddy you be Gilly and I’ll be Nonny! Bubble Puppy is sick again – let’s give him a check up!” She’d run him ragged from sun up ’til sun down. Splashing in the pool, swinging higher and higher, “head rides,” trips to the park. He taught her about spices (!!) – they could often be found together sitting in the pantry smelling them. He taught her how to make grits and coffee and how to plant “crops” in our garden. He was unbelievably patient with her when she would get frustrated with her art and would so sweetly encourage her. He gave THE best baths…so fun they’d shake the pictures off the wall. If you ever thought Kate was funny (and she was) then you need look no farther than her daddy, whose sense of comedic timing she inherited.
I loved watching the two of them together. They laughed and laughed and laughed. They love each other so completely. It shatters me to be without Kate, but breaks me further to know how much he misses her, too. To know that his sidekick and favorite part of his day are gone. Just as he would do for me, I would give anything to take away his pain. I would give anything for him to have his beloved daughter back. Oh, how he misses her.
In honor of Father’s Day I ask you (for those with kids) to take Kate’s Daddy’s best parenting advice. “Do it one more time.” When you’re tired of the repetitive games, throwing them in the air ’til your arms hurt, sick of the same book or DVD…just do it one more time. You’ll never be sorry you did.
I love you Mike. Thank you for the greatest gifts in this world. The gifts of you and of Kate.