Find Joys and Make Wishes

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I’ve been writing a monthly column for more than five years. My readers know I try to instill some humor and a touch of inspiration in my stories about being a stay-at-home dad. However, although I close each column with a reminder to “cherish the moments,” not all of life’s moments feel cherishable. Life is hard sometimes. 

Tragedies and problems fill the newspapers. Many times I’d like to shelter my 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, from the headlines and photographs of a world that seems in continuous turmoil. So as I sat down to write this Thanksgiving column, I pondered what words I could type to make readers laugh, offer a little inspiration and help them pause in their hectic, challenging days to capture the joy. A friend’s obituary and Jessie’s birthday cake provided the answer.

Let’s face it. Every family has challenges — health issues, financial problems, job pressures, relationship turmoils and parental stresses. Part of what made the year challenging for me was our family’s move. Unfortunately, our 300-mile move south from Georgia to central Florida motivated my hairline to recede north. Searching the internet, I read: “The Employee Relocation Council notes moving is topped only by divorce and death for life’s stressful events.” Numerous hairs on my head believed this statement. Many of those that didn’t leap off my head prior to crossing the state border turned gray in protest.

As I packed the contents of my desk in preparation for the move, I came across the clipped-out obituary of a wonderful lady, Teri, who passed away in 2013. She courageously fought a long battle with breast cancer. Teri’s touching obituary read, “Her favorite saying during her times of trial was, ‘Find your joy.’” 

Find your joy! How wonderful that Teri chose to say this during times of trial and not just happy times. 

I’ve been blessed with many joys, none bigger than the birth of my precious daughter and watching her grow into a beautiful young lady. Jessie has provided me with more joys in her 12 years than I could have ever imagined, and I never know when she’ll provide the next one. 

Last night, we had a dual celebration for Jessie and her grandfather, who have the same birthday. Each year, we buy a single birthday cake and, after we sing “Happy Birthday,” Jessie and her grandfather blow out the candles together. Granddaddy always lets Jessie choose the design and flavor. He once celebrated his birthday with a princess cake. This year’s cake featured turquoise roses, pink writing and sprinkles.

Jessie placed 12 candles in their cake. She and her grandfather stood at the end of the kitchen table as we lit the candles and sang. Granddaddy bent over in preparation to blow out the candles, but before he knew what happened, Jessie blew out all 12 candles with one powerful gust. Granddaddy didn’t even have a chance to inhale.

The room erupted with laughter. Though part of me felt like I should apologize, I couldn’t stop laughing. I asked, “Should we relight the candles to give Granddaddy a chance to make a wish?” Jessie quickly responded, “I really want my wish to come true.” Being a loving grandfather, he agreed to forfeit his candle-blowing for her. It was a joyous moment. 

That night, as I tucked her into bed, Jessie asked if she could tell me what she wished if I wouldn’t tell anyone else. When she blew out the candles, she had wished for a solution to a problem that had been worrying me. 

In a few weeks, families will gather for Thanksgiving to remember their blessings. Jessie, with her kind heart, will be at the top of my long list. Yes, we all have challenges, but joys are also abundant. We find them in the sunrise or sunset on a beautiful fall day, a child’s giggle, a spouse’s embrace or a pet’s enthusiastic welcome-home greeting. We can also make wishes — with or without candles — and have hope for the future. Life is good!

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at Follow him at and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.

Categories: Dads, Family, Relationships