Happy Birthday (part 1)

Goodbyes are painful, but hellos can be just as difficult.

Last night I had a dream about my father, not my dad, but my father. I don't want you to hear bitterness in that statement, because it's just fact. The man who raised me, who has been in my life since I was 3 years old is my dad. Truth be known, I still call him Daddy, which seems pretty normal here in the South.

(Yes, that's me with the Kool-Aid mustache and Coke bottle glasses)

My father, however, I did not meet until I was 23 years old, the month after I moved back home from college. There is no doubt in my mind that God aligned that time, something I did not pursue. It was the season in my life to resolve unanswered questions, and for many others involved, a time of accountability. The "how" we met probably isn't as important as the "what happened after we met", but it's a neat story, so I'll take you through that night.

In August 2001, I moved back to my hometown after graduating from college. I knew there would be further education down the road, but I needed clear direction from the Lord and wasn't sure if He still wanted me to pursue Law School or a Graduate degree. Sometimes in life, He will give you a "time-out." And many times this may seem like a set back, but he always has your best in mind. Always, even when we want to throw ourselves down to the ground and kick a little, or a lot. My legs are really strong by now.

In Jeremiah 29:11, He tells us clearly:

"For I know the plans I have for You, says the Lord, plans to prosper You and not to harm You, plans for hope and a future."

While waiting for His direction, I was hired to work as a Paralegal for a local law firm.  A forever friend of mine talked me into going out to dinner because he claimed that all I did was work since I came back to town. On our way to eat, we drove by my father's house. No, I had never met him, but he did in fact live less than 3 miles away from my parents. I saw his truck in the driveway and made a joke by throwing my waving hand in the air and saying "Hey Wayne!" as we drove by. We had dinner and my friend convinced me to head across the street to a local karaoke dive near the beach. We stayed a couple of hours and while we were there, this guy kept being called up to the stage. We sat and listened to him all night. He had a great voice! As we were getting into the car, my friend confessed that he thought that "my dad" was there that night. I was dumbfounded. I asked why he would ever think that and he told me that when we got there, he saw his truck in the parking lot. Then it hit me. You mean, "Singing Wayne" is my father?!? Holy Moses. (Did anyone else hear Darth Vader say, "Jeni....I am your faaaaather..." Me, too.) I'll admit that I'm not very shy. So, naturally, I wanted to go back in and just see him...to look at him and pay attention to all the little things I probably didn't notice. As I got out of the car, he was walking out of the building. He got into his truck, which indeed matched the truck that is usually parked in front of his house. We had to pass Wayne's house on our way back to my parents' house, so I told my friend that if that truck pulled into his driveway, I would know for sure that it was Wayne. Well, guess what? It was Wayne. 

My mom was always very open with me about Wayne.

At a young age when I would ask questions about him, she would answer. She told me that they liked each other very much and that she even loved him. When she became pregnant with me, he wasn't ready to be a dad. She always encouraged me to seek a relationship with him if/when I was ready. When I was 16 years old, I thought I was ready. My mom and my sister ran into Wayne at a restaurant. They spoke and we later agreed to set up a time for me to meet him. The plan was for me to drive over to my mom's office after school. I showed up and he didn't. I think, ultimately, I was actually ok with that. I can honestly say that I don't ever recall my mom speaking bad about him. Maybe this wasn't easy for her, but I want you to know how critical this was for me. Her words could have caused great anxiety about how I felt towards him. Her words and opinions of him could have made me feel unwanted and abandoned by him. However, I always felt loved and my view of him was uncorrupted. This helped me in so many ways because I was able to form my own conclusions later in life, on my own. She gave me that gift and I am incredibly grateful. 

So, it's no surprise that when I walked through the door of my parents' house that night, I called my mom into my bedroom. I poured it all out to her. She was excited for me and encouraged me to go knock on his door and introduce myself. Ok, um, por que?? (insert crazy face) I asked her what in the world I would say. She thought for a minute and replied, "Tell him Happy Birthday." It was his birthday. 

Within 10 minutes, I was standing at his front door. One knock later, he answered. There he was, right in front of me. The other half of who made me. I will never be able to fully explain this, but when I saw his eyes, I saw my eyes in my baby pictures. I knew, even before he did. 

"Are you Wayne?"


"I'm Jeni Marshburn."

"Jeni Marshburn...wow. Come on in..."




  • Kim Smith

    You should be a writer!

  • A. Smith

    Jeni, thanks for sharing your story, Part 1, that is. It was beautifully written and I look forward to hearing the rest of the story.

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