Rhonda Cagle

Archive for June, 2016|Monthly archive page

By Chance and by Choice

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2016 at 9:37 am

I woke up this morning with a question echoing through my head, instantly pushing aside the dreamy fog I usually relish in my quiet, orienting early morning moments. What causes a man to become a dad? How do the chances and choices of life move a male from becoming merely a co-contributor of DNA into the role of father, mentor, advocate, and friend? More importantly, what causes a man who didn’t contribute biologically to willingly; proudly weather the hard work it takes to earn the right to walk that path with a child?

Sneaking out of bed so as not to wake Lorenzo on this Father’s Day morning, I crept downstairs, fired up the coffee pot, stirred up some scones, and continued to muse on this unexpected question. And, as is often the case, I came back to a fundamental truth of my life: I know what I live; with whom I live; and what their lives and our collective living teach.

Besides my own father, there are men who have entered my life by chance – or divine providence, depending on your world and life view – and made the choice to make a significant impact and investment in my children and me.

I think of Sel, my mom’s husband. This is a man whose handshake is as binding as any legal contract. He was raised on a farm with a work ethic and sense of integrity that forms a core component of his character.

mom and sel

When he married my mom, I was an adult child with a daughter of my own. We experienced the blending, bonding – and sometimes bittersweet – moments many newly-formed American families encounter. What we never experienced, however, was a distinction between whose kids belonged to which parent. We were – are – his kids. All of us. He loves equally, gives generously, and proudly claims all of us as his own, just as we do him.

Megan, my daughter, is also a product of the blended families that so often define our American culture. When I married my beloved late husband Dennis, Megan was a slip of a child, bursting toward tomorrow with promise and potential. I was her advocate, cheerleader, and parent. What she needed was a mentor who offered unwavering stability, security, wisdom, acceptance, and love. In short, a dad.

Dennis & Megan

In a thousand ways, through countless conversations, endless humor and insight, Dennis became Megan’s dad in every sense of the word. He never asked or expected her to name him as such – she just did, because he was – and still is.

And now, in this season of life, there is my husband Lorenzo. Again, a blended family with three children who entered our lives in various ages and stages of development.

Even before we married, Lorenzo made the decision to be a father equally to each of our three kids. Becoming a part of Megan’s life just as she was graduating from high school, he knew he could never create the “daddy” moments of a little girl growing up. He didn’t even try.

Instead, he met her where she was at in life, becoming the dad who helped move her in and out of college dorm rooms – sometimes at 2 a.m. – often in 100+ degree temperatures that offer an added badge of courage and distinction to an Arizona State University education. It’s an alma mater bond that they proudly share.

When Lorenzo first ran for office, he recognized she was heading toward a career in politics. Without hesitation, it was 18-year-old Megan he chose to serve as his campaign manager. He opened up his network to her, gave her his unwavering trust and backing to represent him, and worked side-by-side with her as they learned, lost – and eventually won – together.

With our boys, I watch Lorenzo carefully observe their distinct and often disparate interests with equal pride and attention. For Adam, the oldest boy, there is a shared entrepreneurial bent toward business development. Lorenzo shares generously with Adam the lessons he learned from his Fortune 500 days, while also inviting Adam’s insights into the millennial workforce and emerging trends and technologies shaping a global economy.

Roman, our youngest, is entering his senior year of high school. Lorenzo is teaching him to drive; a perfect metaphor as Roman transitions from boy to young man. I see Lorenzo gauging the balance between overt instruction and silent intuition. He recognizes the need for Roman to make important decisions, learning – and sometimes failing – with a safety net that a dad provides so the fall is not too fast or far.

Sierra-17

Today, on this Father’s Day, I am thinking of my own dad, along with Sel, Dennis, and Lorenzo. Their lives are woven into mine – into my children’s. In both singular and collective decisions, they have intentionally created the threads that bind individuals into families.

Let’s be honest. It has not been easy. Sometimes, it still isn’t. There have been moments of awkwardness and anger. There have been times of failure and disappointment. But, at the heart of it all, there has been a conscious decision that we are a family. And when we fail, we learn to fail a little bit better each time. We become stronger in the process. We are a family, by chance and by choice. This is what families and fathers do.

My coffee is now cold and I hear Lorenzo stirring upstairs. It’s time to refill my cuppa and get this Father’s Day started.

To Sel, Dennis, and Lorenzo, thank you for taking the chance and making the choice to become the husbands, fathers, and friends who hold together the fabric of our collective family. Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

Lessons From My Dad

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Sometime around the age of eight, my family had moved for what seemed like the 78th time in my short life. I found myself living in a little farming town in Washington, 20 minutes south of the Canadian boarder. It was winter and my bright red coat was in sharp contrast to the drizzly gray landscape. I channeled its cheer as a badge of courage as I set off on my bike down a country lane to explore my new surroundings.

It wasn’t long until my bike ride had inadvertently attracted the interest of a neighbor’s big dog. As I rode past his home, he broke into a full run, barreling down his driveway, heading straight for me. Terrified of his barking and growling, I did what any eight-year-old-city-raised-girl would do: I screamed at the top of my lungs as if the dog was already pulling me limb from limb. I pedaled as fast as my feet would go, careening dangerously through the unfamiliar twists and turns of a muddy country lane.

There was only one thought in my mind: If I could just find my way back home, my dad would be in the driveway waiting for me. He would protect me from the snarling teeth and menacing growls of the monstrous dog that was nipping at my heels.

I was right. My dad had heard my screams, as had most of the neighbors on that long country lane, and was already running down the road to meet me. In what seemed like an instant, he had pulled me off of my bike, into his arms, high above the dog’s head where I felt safe. Where I could breathe again. Where I knew I was protected.

Then my dad did something unexpected. Unwelcomed. Instead of chasing off the dog to make me feel better, he began interacting calmly and invitingly with the beast, encouraging the dog to come nearer to him. And me.

In a matter of minutes, my once growling, ferocious enemy had turned into a tail-wagging, wiggling, slobbery friend; wanting nothing more than to roll over onto his back so I could scratch his belly. At my dad’s insistence, I reluctantly obliged.

With my dad’s help, I quickly warmed to the dog and established a physical connection with him. My dad taught me how to read the dog’s signals, adjust my responses, and to trust.

As I think about Father’s Day this year, this memory of my dad has taken on new meaning. The beast snarling and nipping at my heels at this moment in life is breast cancer. Its teeth are real. Painful. Dangerous. Disfiguring. At times, demoralizing.

Unlike the dog of my youth, my dad can’t lift me up and out of this current harm’s way. There are some things that even the best dads can’t do.

Dad

Instead, I am choosing to remember the lessons my dad taught the eight-year-old-me on that long-ago day. I can’t always outrun danger. Sometimes, I have to stop in my tracks, turn around, and look that beast squarely in the eye. I have to channel faith and inner strength to push back my own fear so I can see the situation for what it truly is, not what I imagine it is – or could – be.

I didn’t go in search of cancer; it found me; came chasing after me. But day-by-day and treatment-by-treatment, I am stopping it in its tracks. I am remembering to see beyond fear, accurately read the signals, adjust my responses, and to trust. My dad taught me that.

Thanks, dad, for teaching me how to face down the dog of my youth. It’s prepared me to win not only my battle with cancer, but also the war with my own inner demons. Important lessons that I continue to learn in new and more profound ways. Just one of the many gifts you’ve given me.

Oh, and Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

 

 

 

 

 

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