A Blessing of Extraordinary Proportions
A Blessing of Extraordinary Proportions
“The early bird gets the worm,” my dad would always say. He is notorious for waking up between four and four-thirty in the morning. In those early dark hours, you can hear his steps, the smell of coffee brewing, and the sound of newspaper pages turning. I’m not going to lie. I was incredibly annoyed by this, much like the rest of my siblings. Admittedly, I took a lot of my parents’ teachings for granted at an early age. Today, I have a deep appreciation for my dad and the lessons he offers.
I was born in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation, in April of 1984 along with my twin sister. We were welcomed in this world by my mom, dad, four brothers and two sisters. Understandably, Mom and dad called it quits after having twins, bringing it to a total of eight children.
Growing up loud and obnoxious, I didn’t have the best relationship with my dad. He was more calm, patient and diplomatic in his approach. He had to be. He was one of very few Native American business owners in the Four Corners region (where the boundaries of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet). My dad owned an auto body shop for 13 years before closing the doors.
Closing the business didn’t stop my dad in pursuing a leadership role within the Native community. He got deeply involved in helping Native seniors, veterans and youth by fundraising for his projects. To this day, many of the programs he spearheaded continue to operate.
My dad wasn’t very open in communicating his affection toward me. I never heard him express his love verbally. Though he made an effort to show his love in other ways. When I was in my late teens, my dad gifted me a Navajo rug dress. I was the only daughter to receive this. I also graduated from plain ol’ moccasins to buck skin moccasins. My dad was teaching me another lesson, a lesson that I was now a woman.
Fast forward about six years, I was in college and I received a call from one of my siblings. My dad was caught in the middle of trouble with the law. I’m not going to share any details out of respect for my dad and family. What I will say is that I admired the way he handled the difficult situation and humbly accepted the consequences of his actions when he really could have justified his actions. While my dad was getting settled in prison, the family was trying to adjust to this change. We didn’t know what to do next. Selfishly, my biggest fear was what other people, families, and friends were going to think of us.
With the initial exchange of letters between my home in Lincoln, Nebraska and the Fort Worth Federal Penitentiary, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed at times.
What if someone sees this letter? Will they know that my dad is incarcerated? What will they think of me? Did the mailman notice the address? I hope he doesn’t think I’m exchanging love letters with a prison inmate.
After the average exchange of two letters per month, I got used to the letters coming from my dad. At first, I didn’t know what to say. The last time I had written notes was back in high school with my silly girlfriends. After several months, I began to look forward to reading his letters and responding. Our letters allowed us to communicate on a more honest and deeper level than we had in the past.
Five days before I turned 25, I received a letter dated April 20, 2009 from my dad. This is when I received the most memorable and most precious letters of all from my dad.
My Dear Child,
It’s almost time again when you will be celebrating your birthday. Sorry I won’t be there to enjoy the festivities, but my heart is with you always. Besides, it’s only been a few years since you two came to challenge us to undertake an extraordinary hardship, yet a blessing of extraordinary proportions. I am wishing you a happy birthday and all the good that comes with the fulfillment of life’s purpose…
The stupid nurse put you both in my arms! When you were first breathing air on your own. I was pacing back and forth in the hallway when they came out with two sets of small blankets in a roll. I was not sure what they were doing but they said ‘Congratulations Mr. Lee, here are your twin girls.’ I was taken so much by surprise! I could not speak, but before I could say anything, one placed the roll of blanket in my left arm and the other put the other roll in my right arm. I could not move! I could not tell if I have enough grip on the blankets. I felt like I had no control of the little babies. I was afraid I might grip too tight and squish the poor little creatures. I could see the little bitty heads!
Anyway, they finally took the babies from me as they were laughing! That is how our journey began, yours and mine. You were such a wonderful gift and still one. I want you to know that. You know how much your mom loves you, but you probably don’t know how much I love you too. This is just to let you know that you always have your parents pulling for you no matter where you are and where we are...
This was the first time I had ever felt a strong expression of love from my dad. These were words I never heard before, words that so many others have never heard in a lifetime, and words I will never forget. After wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, I thanked the Creator for this truly wonderful blessing and for bringing my dad and I closer to one another. For months, we continued to write one another. Even after he was eventually released from prison, we continued to write.
We later graduated to phone calls and texts. I still can’t believe my dad texts. I don’t understand what he’s saying most of the time, but I get the idea.
I have always believed that nothing happens by mistake. I don’t believe in coincidences. The years have been very difficult for my dad, but through his incarceration we have been able to build a strong relationship that includes understanding, encouragement, and laughter. I am truly grateful for the relationship we have today. It took willingness, honesty and courage on both our parts to get over our fears and slowly break down the uncomfortable wall between the two of us.
Today, we’re able to sit across from one another (when I’m able to make it to New Mexico once a year) for hours. Our conversations are not general. When we communicate, we do so on a deep and meaningful level. Time is precious and words are powerful, neither should be wasted. (Wow. I sound like a fortune cookie.) I try to make the best of what I got because one day it won’t be there.
Obviously, I came into the situation with pre-judgments. I assumed all prison inmates were very bad people that did very bad things. When my dad was sentenced and settling into his cell, I was busy thinking about what other people thought. I have to remind myself, often, that what other people think of me is none of my business. Everyone has a right to feel, and so do I. I no longer feel shame. Sometimes, there are good people out there that make bad choices.
My dad would be proud to know that this bird woke up at four-thirty this morning to write this blog. He was right after all. It only took about 25 years for this bird to realize I get a lot of work done and am most productive in the early morning hours.
If there were anything I would want you to get out of reading this blog, it would be that you realize you too are a blessing of extraordinary proportions.
(Happy Father’s Day Dad! Your Daughter, George)