What Can a Father and Daughter Talk About?


by John C. Westervelt


From my 1996 archives followed by a new message for today


        Mary Kim, throughout high school and college and for nine more years, talked with Nelda about drama and other mother-daughter things. I have come to understand that relationships depend on sharing words, but it is difficult for me because of my shy beginnings.

        On Mary Kim’s birthday nine months after Nelda died, I gathered Mary Kim’s grandmother, her Aunt Harriette, and her cousin Kathy for the drive to Dallas to celebrate. For each of her next seven birthdays, I went to Dallas, at first with women from my family, and finally alone. In recent years I have flown down on Saturday morning and back the same evening.

        On the first birthday trip, as we covered three malls, Harriette and Kathy suggested I buy a Coach bag (purse) since Mary Kim traveled almost every week in her computer software job. The first year this was over budget. The budget was adjusted, and the Coach-bag tradition continued the subsequent six years. After a midmorning arrival, Mary Kim and I would enjoy muffins at the French Bakery in one mall before moving on to another mall for the Coach bags. Often there was a stop at the hardware store for parts for an apartment repair. Last fall, after fifteen years of living in apartments, Mary Kim bought a new home.

        For this year’s birthday celebration, my flight left Tulsa at seven in the morning. This would be a longer day than normal. I suppose it is not too unusual for a shy father to wonder what he’ll talk about for so many hours. As I questioned, I asked for Jesus’ help.

        Walking from the Love field terminal to the parking area, I asked about shopping for a Coach bag. Mary Kim said, “I would rather have help on a wrought-iron love seat. But first, let’s drive by for some muffins and stop at home so I can show you some other needs for my patio area.”

As the day progressed, talking seemed easy as we discussed:

How to tie a young tree to straighten its growth.

How to get a shepherd’s hook into the ground to hold a bird feeder.

How to get the cover off of a loose Moen faucet handle in order to tighten the screw inside.

How to make a scaled drawing of some windows for sketching window treatments.

        We gathered materials at the hardware store and shared time on the shovel to work these jobs. At one point Mary Kim asked, “Why did you teach Paul how to do these things and not me?”

        I had no answer. Could it have been a girl-boy thing?

        The jobs were finished. Other needed conversation about Mary Kim’s editing of my stories was crowded into a hurried drive to catch my six o’clock flight to Tulsa.

        With eyes closed on a smooth flight north, I recalled my request for Jesus’ help in visiting with my daughter. I found Him to be trustworthy.


And now, my message from today:    

A year later, Mary Kim married Robert. Five years after that, Mary Kim, as the adoptive mother, cut Joel’s umbilical cord, with his birth mother’s blessing. Three years had passed when Mary Kim and Robert participated in Kyla’s birth at a hospital in Austin. When they left the hospital to take Kyla home, her young birth mother looked beseechingly into Mary Kim’s eyes and said, “Please give Kyla ballet lessons.”

I sometimes wonder what might have been for Joel and Kyla. This I do know – the eleven- and eight-year-old are excelling at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, TX where they have good teachers by day, and evening and weekend teaching by Mary Kim and Robert. After school, Kyla can’t wait to get to her ballet class.


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