How Fatherhood Has Affected Me
family
Ted, Beatrix, Clara, Jacque, in our back yard in Potsdam, New York, 1980.

I grew up without a father. So when I was little I made a promise to God and myself that, if I ever had children, they would never grow up without a father. God let me keep my promise!

In order to become a father I had to first find someone to become their mother. She was Jacquelyn Vestal of Red Bluff, California. We met in San Francisco at Old First Presbyterian Church on December 7, 1973. They were having “Sing Along With Handel”, in which the congregation got to sing his Messiah. I’m not sure why I was there, and Jacque is not sure why she was there, but we were and we met for the first time. She was dressed for the weather, rain and wind. We got to talking. I could tell she was a charming young woman, but nothing else happened that night. I didn’t know that Jacque, despite her youth and good looks, was already an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Then on April 24 the telephone rang. It was Jacque, calling for volunteers to be the lay reader in church. I instantly remembered her, volunteered, and asked “Why don’t you meet me at Young Adults on Friday night? I’m going to be the guest speaker.”

She did. Within five months we were married.

Our first home was in Mountain View, California. In 1976 we moved to Potsdam, New York, where I had accepted a teaching position at SUNY College.

Both of our daughters were born in Potsdam. Beatrix was conceived in the Krebs’ basement. Jacque and I had rented a room in the Krebs’ basement while we looked for a house. Mr. Krebs was a prominent lawyer in Potsdam. Clara was conceived on vacation, when we visited my mother in Joplin, Missouri.

The first time I saw Beatrix she was under the Bilirubin lights, waving her little hands and feet, crying, and blowing bubbles. When I finally got to hold her, I was elated to be a father at last! Beatrix was not named after Beatrix Potter and Beverley Sills, Jacque insists. We took turns carrying Beatrix when we visited the Brekas clan (Jacque’s sister and her family). Aunt Cyndee said we were playing “hot potato” with Beatrix. “Sweet potato,” I corrected her.

In 1979 High Fidelity audio magazine ran an article, Music to Get Pregnant By. The author observed that situations in which young women got pregnant often featured music with a syncopated rhythm. So he had a list of people whose music you shouldn’t listen to, all the way from Johann Sebastian Bach to Lawrence Welk.

Jacque and I wanted another baby, so naturally we figured we had better listen to that music! Our daughter Clara was born the following year.

I named Clara after my Aunt Pet, who was named after her mother. Clara is the only grandchild in the Goff family (my mother’s) named after Pet. Jacque and I had made a deal regarding the kids’ names: if our first child were a son, I would choose his name, but if our first child were a daughter, Jacque would choose her name. Then, whoever didn’t name our first child would name the second.

When the girls were babies I sang them sea chanties as lullabies. What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? was a favorite. My mother thought I was singing about the drunk man from Arkansas, and worried that the girls would grow up to be alcoholics. Didn’t happen, but they both grew up to love music.

Our daughters are wonderfully challenging, and they are as different as two sisters could be. As an imperfect parent I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve never made the mistake of not loving them or not trying to do my best for them. I’ve always been there.

When the girls were born we lived in Potsdam, New York. In 1982 we moved to Norman, Oklahoma; in 1987 to Fort Worth, Texas; and in 1991 to Mesa, Arizona. We’ve been through a lot as a family. But I continually thank God for bringing Jacque, Beatrix, and Clara into my life.
Praise the LORD!