You were just another man to me; another man who wanted to date (and ultimately marry) my mom. I didn’t like you and really had no reason not to other than I was eighteen with an attitude. Plus, I had done eighteen years of life without a father figure around, why on earth would I need (or want) one now? In fact, for eighteen years, life had been really hard and a lot of that was because of a man. I was scared; scared of more hurt and pain from another man – you. We were fine without you, yet here you were and you didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
You were the definition of tall, dark, and handsome. I was sure I had you pegged as just another handsome, wealthy man that thought they were going to “save” Mom from a hard life. I couldn’t stand men like you, and yet, this wasn’t you at all, was it? You had a smile that not only lit up a room but drew people to you. You were genuine and you couldn’t be anything but genuine. You continued to make it harder for me not to like you. You cared about people on a level that went beyond the surface and straight to the heart, and one of those people was me. You started to care about me and pursue a relationship with me even when I was hurtful to you and tried to push you away. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t help the fact that I was falling for you as any daughter falls for her father. “Is this how little girls feel about their dad?” I began to wonder. All I knew at this point was, you continued to prove consistent, faithful and pursued me with a love I’d never known or experienced; a love of a father. This man was nothing I thought but more, so much more.
I remember standing in your kitchen, my nails were done for the senior banquet, and I was wearing a gray t-shirt when you entered the room to join Mom and I. The conversation seemed to come to an abrupt ending and you and Mom exchanged looks. “Oh no, what did I do?” My mind raced, but the moment you opened your mouth and spoke the words I understood. You turned and looked at me and asked me how I’d feel if you adopted me so I could officially be your daughter.
I looked up at you, you looked nervous, I looked down at the granite, I was nervous but oh was I sure. I looked back up and said, “I’d like that” and that was all you needed to hear to pull out the papers and make it official immediately. You didn’t just want to talk about the idea of adoption, you were sure you wanted me as your daughter and were ready to do it now! I had never felt so loved and pursued. Now I was certain this has to be that feeling every little girl wants from their dad and I was getting to be that little girl at eighteen years old!
You were no longer just another man but my dad. The first time I called you “Dad” felt awkward, uncomfortable, and wrong as if I was breaking some rule but you smiled and teared up. It was then I knew I’d never call you anything but Dad again because, after all, you were and I loved you as such. How on earth did I go eighteen years of life without knowing you when being your daughter feels as natural as breathing. If I had any doubt of God’s goodness and love toward me, it was all erased by you. Your life and role in mine will always be marked as the days of proof that God is a God who sees (our hurts, sorrows, joys, and laughter), God is a God who knows (our deepest desires and longings), and God is a God who heals every broken piece of His children. After all, God works all things for the good of those who love him and your life is my piece proof (Romans 8:28).
Dad, being adopted by you has changed by life. In your death, I want to tell the world, this girl knows that I know that God is good because of a man named Stephen James Hatch, my dad. I had seven amazing years of being your daughter, and those seven years more than filled the absence of the eighteen years spent without a dad. You were (and always will be) worth the wait. God’s timing is perfect and when I doubt or fear that truth, I remember you (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Maria and Dad summer of 2010