There is a worried look that Andrew has. I call it his “dad face” because I didn’t see it in the four years we were together; until he met Oliver. In that room with fluorescent lights and a bloodstained floor I watched him change instantly. I had just given birth to our sweet boy with the bright blue eyes and round face bursting at the seams with love.
In his first few moments of life he made that classic baby cry, yet still had trouble breathing. I was able to hold him briefly, but after a quick assessment in the room he was taken to the NICU. I’ll never forget that look on Andrew’s face as he stood across the room: the dad face. He said, “I’m going with him”, and I said, “Of course!” I leaned back on the hospital bed with a halo of sweaty hair and the relief of the end of labor.
In less than an hour, Oliver and Andrew returned. Oliver was washed and wrapped in a sweet blanket. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I had longed to see his little face after all those months of feeling him grow in my belly, and especially in my heart.
We couldn’t have known that the hospital would become a place that Andrew’s “dad face” would keep showing up.
When Andrew and I met, I remember seeing his messy bachelor pad dotted with photos of his nieces and nephews. When he spoke of them, his face lit up and his eyes softened. He couldn’t wait to introduce me to them. Andrew has always had a kind heart...there is a gentleness to his spirit that I love.
I don’t remember the first time I saw Andrew hold a baby, but I do remember thinking how natural it seemed to me. His was so big with strong arms, and yet (unlike many men I dated) he was so comfortable cooing at the little face in front of him.
Watching Andrew become a father was like watching someone put on a pair of worn slippers. Easy, comfortable, natural, meant to be.
This Father’s Day I won’t be getting him a coffee mug that says “World’s Best Dad.” I do not think parenting is a competition. What Andrew is, is this: “World’s Best Dad for Oliver.” I believe that God gave Oliver a great gift in Andrew. He chose a man who would not be broken by the incredible challenges ahead of him, including one of life’s worst pains: watching a child suffer. God gave Oliver a man unafraid to work insanely long hours to provide for the cost of life-saving treatments. A man physically strong enough to lift the weight of sickness and suffering. A man with a spirit that has never turned into a bitter stone, although that temptation is real.
You see fatherhood isn’t always about baseball games and camping trips. Andrew’s fatherhood journey will likely miss those wonderful experiences.
Andrew’s fatherhood is marked by hospital rooms and intermittent seasons of communication with Oliver. It is a picture of a sacrificial love that is beautiful. We all want someone to love us that well.
For six and a half years, I have watched his love in action. Not just his words, but his behavior and choices. I have been utterly amazed at his perseverance and positive attitude.
So this Father’s day I am privileged to honor a man that deserves so much more than a blog post.
One of the most emotionally touching things I’ve ever watched is Andrew being a father to Oliver. I have every confidence that as Oliver grows, Andrew will be there with his “dad face.” Maybe he’ll be feeding Oliver dinner when he is twenty five, wiping his chin when the applesauce doesn’t quite make it. Perhaps I’ll see that face in a hospital room after a particularly difficult cluster of seizures...his large hands holding the face he loves so much. I don’t know what is ahead for Oliver or for us, but I do know Andrew will be there.
How blessed we are if we’ve had a daddy’s lap to climb into, a father’s kiss on the forehead, a man to walk us down the aisle, someone who never stopped making sacrifices to make sure we were our best selves. Indeed, one is lucky to have ever received the gaze of a worried “dad’s face” filled with love and a promise to always be there. No matter what.
Happy Father’s Day, Andrew. You’re incredible.