Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in my life. I can readily recognize that navigating manhood is a difficult task. As a woman, I support my husband as a wife – but also as the father of my children. I know that my kids are watching his every move. Based on Brad’s actions, my sons are deciding how they will father. My daughter is setting the expectations for how her husband will parent her children.
I believe all three of my children have written a college essay that explains our family mantra: Suck the most out of life. Brad established this mindset early in our relationship. On our Maui honeymoon, I was content to take an afternoon nap. That didn’t sound much like sucking the most out of life to Brad, and he was off on a whale-watching trip. On the average Thursday night, I was pleased to watch an episode of Friends. And he was doing that with me – but he was also reading a book, writing a note of encouragement to a colleague, and making a mental note to check-out a new exhibit in town. He rarely slept – staying up late and getting up early. He read two and three books at a time. He watched television shows of varying content. He was constantly adding things to his already full schedule. All the while, he was encouraging me to suck the most out of life as well. Sometimes it was a nudge; sometimes it was a full-fledged push. And other times he just let me be.
In looking back, I would say that our time in Tucson was a difficult one for me. I think of Brad as thriving and me as simply surviving during those years. Somehow that switched when we arrived in Oklahoma City. After 26 years of mostly resounding success, Brad left the Muscular Dystrophy Association and joined the American Red Cross. He spent 18 months trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. It was just not a good fit. He moved to Make-A-Wish Oklahoma and began to re-establish his reputation day by day as a champion for children – building relationships, developing a talented staff, sharing stories to generate support for the mission. But somewhere along the way, Brad lost the spark that propelled the life outside of his career. As a friend, acquaintance, peer, or colleague, you probably wouldn’t have noticed much of a change. As his wife and the mother of his children, it was blatantly apparent.
Of course, Brad wasn’t operating in the confines of a protected bubble. We’ve had our fair share of challenges. Our daughter’s transition to Oklahoma City had its own set of problems. There were situations with extended family members to navigate. And then there were the medical issues – Brad’s shingles, the broken hip, and then the replacement hip. There were lots of really good reasons for him to be in a funk.
Fortunately, just as slowly as Brad fell into that funk, he has now emerged. How do I know? I observe the tell-tale signs:
Reading. There are no less than six books on Brad’s nightstand at this very moment. Of course, four of these books are so heady that they are above the comprehension of the average person (namely, me) – but they show that his mind is engaged on a variety of subjects.
Craving God. Heady books = God. Brad comes to God intellectually. I tease that his books about God have mathematical equations. He’s found an entire group of people at the Discovery Institute who feed his passion and challenge his desire to know God more intimately. From You Tube to regional conferences in Dallas to asking our church to host some of these great minds, Brad is engaged and striving to connect with others on these subjects.
Gardening. Brad’s salsa garden is back in action. He’s recreated it, enhanced it, and is finding true joy in cultivating it. He’s taking pleasure in his daily watering. And I think he actually enjoys picking weeds. He’s already savoring perfect cherry tomatoes and purple jalapenos as he waits for his precious serrano peppers to mature.
Sitting on the back patio. I must admit – nothing beats a Tucson sunset. Our home in Tucson provided several perfect spots for Brad to enjoy the evenings outside – breathing in the scenery and contemplating life. The view from the back porch (or front lawn) in Oklahoma is different, for sure. But, we have a wonderful piece of property that we are enhancing every day. Most evenings now, I again find him surveying the scene and reflecting on this stage of life. Delaney and Cooper can even be found trickling out of the house to steal a few precious moments with him.
Birdfeeders. Such a random indicator – but so true to his essence. Brad has added not one, not two, but five birdfeeders and three hummingbird feeders to our backyard. In a matter of days, Brad knows which feeders are getting the most action and by which type of bird. He knows how the squirrels are reacting. He can anticipate what activity will rise to the level that warrants the attention of our two dogs and three cats.
Saturdays. To me, a perfect Saturday is a morning date with Brad. It usually includes a trip to a garden show, a farmer’s market, an arts festival, or a neighborhood garage sale. It always includes breakfast at a local restaurant – of which there are plenty of great places in OKC. This time around, it includes driving on the backroads in his Jeep, with the top off and the wind in our hair. No place to be. No rushing around. We usually end up being ‘done’ at about the same time. We head home and straight to our respective gardens. We did that this morning – and it was heavenly!
Prison Reform. Hand-in-hand with sucking the most out of life is being a lifelong learner. And if you think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you are mistaken. Prison reform is a topic that has grabbed Brad’s attention, convicted his heart, and challenged his long-held thoughts. The subject of prison reform in our house specifically starts with the case of Julius Jones, and it’s one that both Brad and Delaney can discuss for hours.
Developing Talent Outside the Office. Professionally, one of Brad’s strengths is developing talent. This isn’t a proud-wife statement. This is a skill recognized by many who know Brad. However, it is rare that he shares it outside his career. This fall, he will have the opportunity to share his philanthropy acumen with the men of Beta Theta Pi on the OU campus. I know coaching and advising these young men will challenge and inspire him. Brad is already excited and making plans.
Those are the observations that are most obvious to me. There are probably others that will come to mind as soon as I post this blog. My intention is to acknowledge that ‘I see you, Brad Barghols.’ Welcome back to the land of those who suck the most out of life! You are a good man, husband, provider, friend – and father. With Grayson, Cooper, and Delaney – I celebrate you this Father’s Day. Enjoy!