Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Caleb Holding Rosalie for the First Time
Caleb and I are truly blessed to have exceptional fathers who are a stellar example of what all dads should strive to be.  In many regards, our dads have similar philosophies.  The way they cherish and respect our mothers teaches us what a loving marriage is supposed to be like. They encourage us to chase our dreams but are still always there for us when we stumble and need their support.  Through their example, we know the value of a hard days work.  They teach us to be respectful towards others, but also that we need to demand respect for ourselves.  While our dads have a lot in common, they also differ from each other in some ways.  Part of this is due to the fact that Caleb's father, John, raised three boys, while my father, Peter, raised three girls!

Over the years, my husband has shared some wonderful memories with me about his childhood.  From chasing cows to helping with home renovation projects, Caleb and his brothers were always busy!  Mr. John even used the drive to school to give the boys pearls of wisdom on everything from girls to the stock market in the "John Swanberg Lecture Series".  Come hell or high water, Mr. John was NOT going to have lazy boys.  When it came time for them to get jobs in high school, he told them that they should always show up 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes late.

While teaching his boys to be hard workers was very important to Mr. John, it came second to making sure that they understood the value of family.  He repeatedly emphasized that his sons should always be there for each other, through thick and thin.  He said that no matter what happened in their lives, they should always be able to count on the support of their brothers.  He even had a catch phrase that he drilled into them:  "Team Swanberg, hoorah!!"

Anyone who knows Caleb can see that his father's efforts paid off.  Caleb has the best time management skills I have ever seen.  He is highly motivated, incredibly smart, and humble.  Thank you, Mr. John, for sharing your son with me and letting Rosie and I reap the benefits of the seeds you sowed in his childhood.

Caleb and his Father

My poor father had his hands full while raising my sisters and I.  If you count my mom, the he was outnumbered 4-1!  As you can imagine, this molded him into a man who was fiercely protective of his girls, but also secretly soft-hearted.  My dad was never afraid to kiss my mom in front of us and he always showed her respect and demanded that we do the same.  Watching him with my mom showed me what qualities I should look for in a husband.  Someone who is committed, hardworking, and affectionate.

My father is a Hard Worker with a capital H and W.  He has worked 12-hour shifts in a paper mill for 23 or so years now.  If that wasn't demanding enough, the shifts rotate between days and nights.  This makes it impossible for his body to settle into any sort of sleep-wake cycle.  Being a paper maker is not easy work; in fact, it can be back-breaking.  The mill is constantly sweltering and the air is filled with the deafening roar of machines and the sulfuric smell of pulp.  It's not exactly a relaxing work environment.  During especially difficult shifts, he would open up his lunch box and look at pictures of us so that he could be reminded of why he was there.  That's love.  Despite his crazy schedule, my dad made it a point to attend every single concert, awards banquet, and sports match that my sisters and I were a part of.  We could always count on seeing his face in the crowd, beaming with pride.  Even when I was in college, he and my mom drove four hours to watch my twenty minute Senior capstone presentation.  I tried to tell them not to come because of the distance, but was secretly thrilled when they told me they wouldn't miss it!  My dad was not content with just being a bystander at these events, he wanted to be a part of them and contribute.  We would often stay late and help with the clean-up and take-down after basketball games or banquets.  He and my mom even became part of, and eventually ran, the Athletic Booster club.  This involvement taught my sisters and I to be contributing members of our community.  We learned that we should always strive to be helpful and give back.

Religion was and always will be a big part of my dad's life.  When we were growing up, he did a great job of taking us to church and teaching us about our Catholic faith.  I remember occasionally going into my parents bedroom at night with my sisters to say our nightly prayer with my father.  He said that when we prayed together, it was more powerful than when we prayed alone and quoted "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them".  I remember thinking it was SO COOL that God was right there with us in the same room!  :)  Even now, when things happen in my life, good or bad, Dad is quick to remind me that everything happens for a reason.  He tells me that it is okay to pray and ask for things, but reminds me to not forget to give thanks for all that I have.

My Dad and I

When Caleb and I found out that we were expecting, I thought that we were officially considered to be grown-ups and that our parents would see us as equals rather than as their little children.  How silly of me.  On December 26, 2012, I learned firsthand that a parent's love for their child does not fade just because they are an adult.  I also learned that even grown-ups need their mommies and daddies sometimes.

The day after Christmas, Caleb and I were at my parents house when we got the phone call from our genetic counselor.  We had the phone on speaker and my dad listened quietly from the living room as we were told that our daughter would have Down syndrome.  I don't remember much of that conversation, but I do remember distinctly what happened when we hung up.  Caleb and I sat on the couch sobbing while holding one another.  My dad quietly got up from his chair and gave us some time alone together to process the news.  A little while later, he came back and took me into his arms like he used to do when I was a little girl.  He stroked my hair and told me everything would be okay.  He said, "God chose you for a reason."  When my mom, Nathalie, got home from work and we told her the news, my dad got right to work consoling her too.

Caleb's father was shocked when we told him the news, but it didn't take him long to recover.  Caleb's mother, Mme. Andrea, held Caleb and I the way a mother holds her babies.  She whispered words of love and support to us.  During this time, Mr. John went right to work researching everything he could about Down syndrome.  He ordered books, found support groups, etc.  A few days later, Caleb and I were still pretty emotional about everything, but Mr. John had fully accepted the news and was ready to rock and roll!  "Why are you guys so upset?  I've been reading a lot about it and it's really not that big of a deal."  His matter-of-fact tone was just what we needed to "snap out of it"!

In the days after we got Rosalie's diagnosis, we felt a very real and intense sorrow.  Our fathers were our rocks.  There is definitely a reason that we got the news on our Christmas break in northern Maine rather than when we were 9 hours away in Boston.  We were where we needed to be.  Now that Rosie is here, we can't help but think our reactions were so dramatic and silly!  We even feel a little guilty for being so upset.  Why were we so worried!?  Most days, the fact that she has Down syndrome doesn't even cross our minds.

Rosalie is so incredibly blessed to have Caleb as a father.  He is everything that his parents taught him to be and more.  I know that it is not easy for him to go to the hospital every morning and work such long hours, but he does it for the sake of our future.  He loves his little girl unconditionally.  When I look at my husband and daughter together, I am filled with a sense of love so strong that I can feel it emanating from me--I just can't contain it!  I think I finally understand the way our parents feel towards us.  The depth of a parent's love for their child is bottomless.  There is nothing in the world like it and it is truly a gift to be cherished.

Caleb, I can't imagine going through this journey without you.  You are my best friend and a truly exceptional father to our little girl.  I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us.  Thank you for being you and all that you do.  Rosalie and I love you beyond measure.

Rosie and Papa Swanberg
Rosie and Pepere Nadeau

1 comment:

  1. Melissa: This is beautiful and so heart-felt. I will be sure to share it with "Papa Bear". Just remember that we are ALL very blessed to be a part of "Wee Rosalie's" life. You and Caleb have been wonderful to share her with us either in this blog, your "Daily Dose" FaceBook page, or in the revolving door of visitors:) Little Rosie is so very blessed to have you and Caleb as her parents:) Love you beyond measure,
    Mama Swan

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