Happy Birthday (part 2)

Seeing your face for the first time means so much to me. So many questions are answered before we ever say a word. You invite me in and we talk until 2:00 in the morning. Sadly, I can't recall much of that conversation, but I know there was a lot of laughter, and maybe some healing, too. 

Where were you? I've been growing up without you, just 3 miles from where we sit now. You missed so much. I want to understand, but I've prepared myself in case I can't. 

We plan a dinner date the next week. You pick me up at my parents' house. It makes sense that you don't come in that night because what would she say and how would he feel? You take me to a restaurant and I hear you sing again.

It may be a little awkward at times, but I like you. You're funny and charming. You're a great story-teller and you smile when you talk. I can tell that you're kind and I can see many things that my mom saw in you. I think you like me, too. Am I who you thought I'd be? I'm not sure you ever said. 

Over the next few weeks, you tell me about your family, about your previous marriages, about your life. I am your only child. You live alone. I wonder if you ever feel lonely. When you go home after the day is over, is it quiet? I'm torn because I feel sad for you sometimes, but I also remind myself that this is the result of your choices and maybe this is exactly what you want. 

One night, you tell me that you are beginning to feel "emotionally invested" in our relationship. Before you can get the words out, I ask you if you want a DNA test. You look away and say yes. I agree on the outside, but I melt on the inside. You don't know? I want so bad for you to know on your own, to recognize the you in me.

Two weeks later, it's 99.9% official. I'm thankful and maybe you are, too. You invite me to a huge family dinner to meet all the people in your world. It was wonderful and I am so welcomed. In a single night, my family doubles. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins. It ALL. I'm really touched by how close your family seems. I can tell that they mean a lot to you.

Less than two years later, your dad, Jack passes away. My mind wanders back to this night often and I feel so grateful for meeting him, for hugging him, for hearing him tell me that he regrets the time that was wasted. His beautiful blue eyes.

Over the next year, we get to do some fun stuff together like Mardi Gras Balls, dinners/cookouts and events to hear you sing, but after I move out of town for graduate school, the time begins to pass quickly. We don't talk that much, but I do make a point to see you when I come back home for visits.

Around Christmas 2003, I bring Brandon to meet you. You invite us to come out to your girlfriend's house. She's very sweet and a gracious hostess. Before we leave, I hand you a gift and you hand me a card. As we drive away, I open the card and cash falls out. The sentiment inside reads, "Merry Christmas, Jenny." Jenny. But, my name is Jeni. I ask Brandon to pull off the road. I can't help but cry big tears because I feel so insignificant. I try to push it aside, telling myself that it's just a misspelling. That you were probably in a hurry. But, it's more than just a word. It's who I am. That name is my name and I can't justify that for you. I want it to be more important to you. I want to mean more to you.

When Brandon and I are married in 2005, I honor your mom during our ceremony. It is such joy to have you and your family there to celebrate with us. Her name is listed in our program as my Grandmother. We pin a corsage on her pretty dress and have her escorted to her seat as a part of the Bride's Family. As the procession begins and I pass her on my way down the aisle, she reaches out and touches my arm. 

This gesture from her is forever etched in my heart. You are there with her and I am so grateful to have my People with me on our precious day.

My hope is that you understand why my dad is listed as Father of the Bride. Why my dad takes me by the hand and walks me down the aisle.

Why my dad dances the Father-Daughter dance with me.

My wedding day is his day, too. The day that he proudly blesses me, his daughter, to start a new life with my husband. The day that I trade the last name he gave me when I was 3 years old, for a new name. It is a day for him to reap the rewards for all the days he loved me, for all the days that he hugged me, for all the days that he helped me with homework, for all the days he worked overtime so that I could continue to go to a private school, for all the games he sat in the stands to cheer for the cheerleader, for the 4th grade stitches when I bounced off my bike, for the 10th grade Valentine's Day when he sent flowers to me at school, for all the pep talks he gave me when he knew I could do better, for all the sacrifices that are necessary when you raise a child and put their needs before your own. For being a Daddy.

I'm not sure that you did understand, though, because this was the last night I saw you. No dance request, no happily-ever-after card, no goodbye. 

And then, I received a really hard lesson in expectations. 

Sure, I could have confronted you about it, told you the sadness and disappointment I felt, and made it a whole thing. I'm just not convinced that anything would have changed. I needed to learn that my expectations of you belonged to me, not you. The reality is that I wanted, hoped, dreamed for you to be something that maybe you could never be to me. For me. The moment I realized that nothing I did or say would change things, would change you, I received peace. True peace. The kind that says "It's ok." The kind that blesses you and hopes you have the very best in life, regardless if I'm a part of it, or not. I had to let go of who I wanted you to be and accept who you are. 

It has been almost 11 years.  If I'm honest with myself, I have thought about you a thousand times. Waves of sadness and acceptance. I've asked God to heal my heart and expose any resentment that may be hiding in the corners. My fear is getting a phone call one day that you're gone and that it's too late to say something I need to say:

I love you, Wayne, and I forgive you.  


It's true that rejection is God's protection.

If we allow that to settle down into our minds and if we're truthful with ourselves, we can probably see this in our own lives. Perhaps a time when someone or something didn't quite unfold the way you had hoped, for whatever reason. This may have been God's protection. The Lord doesn't let anything we experience in life go to waste. If we allow Him to USE what Satan intended to harm us, then nothing we walk through, nothing we survive is in vain. Over the years, He has brought young counseling clients to my office that are planning to meet their dad for the first time, and young women who are faced with raising a child on their own. My experiences have helped prepare me to help them. As a new volunteer at Sav-A-Life, I will be meeting women who may be in a similar situation as my own mother, which was having to make a difficult decision alone, regardless of the pressure to terminate my life.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28




  • Heather Thomason

    Just stumbled across this. First thanks for sharing, amazing . Second, how blessed that your mom picked your dad, thank goodness for your amazing father who raised you. Third, your biological father lives alone for a reason, and those reasons are beyond anything you or I would ever chose. If your biological father couldn’t figure out on his own why your dad was the one to walk you down the aisle , then you would never be able to get him to understand. Its his loss. But no matter what you will always have that hole, left by him. and thats totally natural. Because you care. We can only can only control how we react to a situation. The fact that he lived 3 miles and never reached out is a disturbing sign, so your correct that your expectations belong to you and not him. Thanks for sharing the story:)

  • Elaine Dawsey

    Beautiful, Jeni and so much wisdom. Something you should be proud of. I know that your earthly daddy and your Heavenly Father are well pleased. Thank you for sharing……..


    I love you, my daughter-in-law. You are SUCH a special woman in my life. I love that you are so in love with my son and are so very good to him. But, believe it or not, I think I love you even more after reading this because you are brave and honest and willing to share a little hurt place in your heart that I wish I could heal. Maybe the love that all of us have for you will grow and combine to fill that spot. God bless Ronnie Marshburn for giving you all that Wayne never could.

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