I, like many, have picked up plenty of skills and factoids in my twenty-six years on this earth, but there is one thing that I, without a doubt, am proudest of.
I learned at a very young age, about three or four, exactly where to lay my head on my daddy’s belly to guarantee that I would receive a back rub.
This skill boded well for me over the years, more than I ever imagined I would need it to.
Bad day at school- back rub.
Hard loss in a soccer game- back rub.
I’m bored during the forever-long prayer at church- back rub.
First, second, third breakup- back rub.
My boyfriend is diagnosed with cancer- back rub.
My (now) husband dies of this cancer- back rub.
I came running to my dad time and time again seeking some kind of cure, relief, for all of life’s deepest pains. This is a little girl’s nature that I never grew out of. And even if he couldn’t take it all away, probably the most painful fact of his own life, he, more than anyone else in the world, could provide comfort in the midst of it.
My dad entered the arms of the angels (yes, I did intentionally use the cheesiest euphemism I could think of) a week ago today. And in the midst of this new blow, all I want to do is squeeze in next to him, kick my mom, or siblings, or whoever dared to sit in my seat (they knew better), out of the way, lay my head on his belly, and feel his arms squeeze me tightly.
And what I realize in these days, the moments of immense grief, these moments when my stomach screams at me as though I need reminded that in the past two months the two largest chunks of my delicate world have been ripped out my hands, what I realize in these quiet moments when I long for him is… it was never about the back rub.
It was always about the security. It was always about knowing a place where I belonged, where I was loved, cared for. It was about knowing of a place in this harsh world where I could unfailingly know how treasured I was. It was about a man who loved me with an unyielding heart from the minute I took my first breath until he took his own last, a man who showed this by his uncontrollable need to comfort me any time I laid my head in that spot on his belly that I found in the easiest days of what would become a relatively painful life.
Mark Timm was a goof, a comedian, a storyteller, a man who sought both truth and laughter. Mark Timm was a type A to a fault when it came to beating traffic after a sporting event. Mark Timm was a father to me, and my brother, and my sister. Mark Timm was a father to, quite frankly, anyone who walked through the front door of my childhood home and needed that figure. Mark Timm was a father to many, but he was my daddy.
Mark Timm was my refuge. And in sense, he will always be.
I don’t have a point for this blog. I just know that I needed to write it because when you love and lose someone like my dad you form a gas-like pressure inside of you that demands for you to tell the world about them. So… I guess you’re reading my flatulence? I’m sorry? He’d be absolutely appalled to know his baby girl was farting her thoughts to the world. But grief makes you freaken weird, guys… thanks for sticking with me.
I’m sure everyone knows this feeling when they lose someone, the feeling of clunking clumsily through seasons with this pressure of their loved one’s name always on their lips (others probably don’t compare it to grotesque bodily functions… again… sorry… I blame grief). I’m not the only person in this season, let alone in general, to know this depth of grief, this need to tell the stories of those who can no longer tell them themselves. But I am the only one to have your attention right now, so let me tell you about my dad.
Let me tell you about him because for a reason that I cannot even fathom, you all come here to this site to hear from me, and the irony of it all is the parts of me that think these things and write these blogs, they are him.
I am him. Toward the end, he told his friend, “she is my heart,” but he his mine. I am him, not only by nature, but by nurture. That man spent nearly twenty-six years pouring into me, and these posts that for whatever reason you find yourself reading, this is the result of that pure, fatherly, intentionality.
I think critically because he asked me the hard life questions from the moment I could talk. He challenged me to think through some of life’s hardest realities years before I ever had to face them. This is something the world questioned of him. The world thought it was crazy that a ten-year-old knew the depths and pains of life and death. The world thought it was nuts that a twelve-year-old asked hard questions and sought harder answers. The world thought he was crazy, and that he forced me to grow up too soon. But he simply knew what life looks like, and he knew that there is beauty in the pain, and that it will all demand to be felt one day, and only those who already know it can stand through it. I absolutely could not imagine the disaster I would be if I entered this season of unbearable pain blindly. These words that you’re reading could certainly never have formed if childhood Alycia never had to process them first.
I think relationally because I watched him and my mother welcome all people from all walks of life into our home with fierce hospitality time and time again. He saw people by the beauty of their humanity, their spirituality. He didn’t see wealth. He didn’t see status. He saw them. He always saw someone who was worth a damn, and he not only invited them to his table, but he humbled himself in the kitchen and he treated them to feasts of prime rib and rich glasses of scotch. He invited people to his table, many of whom the world turned away from, and he showed them that he saw worth in their being there. I grew up in a home where misfits belonged, where they were honored guests. My hope is to create a home that bears a similar nature.
I give second chances— this is not something that has ever come naturally to me. But my mom and dad both hammered in the value of grace from day one. My father hitched his life to the book of Galatians, a book, that ironically, I rejected upon first read. He convinced me to give Galatians a second chance. He convinced me to give Bob Dylan a second chance, and to give Dickens a second chance. He convinced me to give sushi a second chance. He convinced me to give the state of Indiana and her cornfield cold winters a second chance. And most importantly, he convinced me to give that Chicago boy with the Chicago sass a second chance, and a third chance, and an infinity chance. Just about everything of value in my life, everything of impact, everything that has made me, came from a second chance that my dad convinced me to offer.
I am my father’s daughter. I am him through and through. I may never charge a room the way he could. I may never draw people into my presence the way he would. My introverted nature may always restrict the blessing I can be on strangers, and the friendships I can make with Kroger checkout clerks.
But he and I held large portions of the other’s hearts, and in that, today, I exist in heaven, and he continues to exist on earth.
I have experienced immense love in this life, and despite the unquestionable hurt that came out of it all, I truly believe that I will again.
This is all because of my father. I know how to love, and I’ve never questioned or compromised how I deserve to be loved. I’ve never had to, because my daddy, Mark Timm, was my first love, and he laid my life’s greatest foundation.