Letting Go and Holding On: A Father's Day Post from MAKERS Founder & Executive Producer's Father, Jerry McGee
For Father's Day, MAKERS invited Founder & Executive Producer Dyllan McGee's father, Jerry McGee, to write a post about being Dyllan's father.
A young lady I was talking to at an internet convention had a sudden realization, immediately stopped talking about technology and plaintively asked me, "Are you Dyllan McGee's father?" Bemused I answered "Yes," to which she gushed "OMG! She is one of my good friends. You must be so proud of her."
I say "bemused" as Dyllan and I have had a long standing joke about people who have over the years asked her "Are you Jerry McGee's daughter" and this changing of the protocol was a source of gratification (and realization) that my little girl has indeed grown up and is a success in her own right.
I was a divorced Dad--who often have a challenge building a normal relationship with their daughters--but I was lucky namely because I was unlucky. From the time she was a very little girl, Dyllan suffered from severe asthma and required regular hospitalizations which were very traumatic, yet had the side benefit of keeping our broken family patched together.
Her Mom and I put her first and our differences aside. I think that taught us all a lesson and allowed Dyllanto avoid the angst of being an arbitrator between warring parents as she was growing up.
She would be fine one day, sick and in the hospital the next and fine a week after that. And what always amazed me about Dyllan was her remarkable ability to shrug it off and cheerfully go through life as though nothing bad had happened and nothing bad was going to happen again.
We lived though this for 14 years. Dyllan did much better than we did. She thrived. She was busy. Always very busy. Making things, singing songs, laughing. When she was very little I taught her the refrain from the Don McClean classic "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" and she would sing it regularly.
One evening I returned to the apartment and an astonished babysitter who was not very musically hip told me that my daughter was singing very weird songs about "this will be the day that I die." She did not come back to babysit but Dyllan sings the song to this day and has taught it to her sons.
When Dyllan was 14, I was faced with the difficult career decision to leave NY and go to California to run our office there. I agonized over it, not wanting to leave NY and my dear Daughter behind. Now it is important to note here that Dyllan and I had no problems whatsoever talking to each other. We had dined out together for years at restaurants in the city, and conversation came very easily to us. In fact one of my great memories is walking up Madison Avenue with a very young Dyllan tucked in the crux of my arm talking away and laughing all the way back to her apartment. So we talked about LA and the opportunity and I confess to shading the conversation so that she would feel ok about saying "no I don't want you to go." Boy was I wrong. She said, and I remember it to this day, "Daddy you have to take it. It sounds so exciting and I can come visit you in California." It was one of those moments when your child becomes the parent.
There was another of those moments to come and it changed everything.
Dyllan insisted on going away to boarding school. I did not want her to go as her asthma was very severe and she needed to be near her doctors and hospital. But Dyllan is a very determined girl and she was relentless to the point that she convinced her Mom and I to let her go away to the Taft school in Connecticut. And soon my worst fears were realized when the call came letting me know she was very very sick and in the hospital.
There is a long story here but as fate would have it, my high school roommate was a doctor at the Danbury Hospital and called me to say not to worry, he would take care of her and that she was going to be ok. He also said that Dyllan should see a respiratory doctor he knew. That doctor told us that from now on Dyllan and he would be in charge of her asthma. We were no longer the arbiters of her health And she went through the rest of her school days without going to the hospital once. Dyllan took charge and never looked back.
One day she called me from Trinity College to let me know that she had been selected as the coxswain of the power ten rowing crew and what did I think about that. What I thought was how remarkably lucky I was to have 10 huge guys looking after the well-being of my daughter. But my best college memory is when I visited her on campus and she invited me to come to an over-served fraternity party with no censorship or embarrassment on her part. She was actually glad to have me there and introduced me to all her many friends. I was relieved not to be a geeky Dad.
When Dyllan got married, I got the thrill of walking her down the aisle and learned another life lesson. Daddy's little girl was about to be someone's wife. I had not really thought about the ramifications of that. As we walked down the aisle I was taking my sweet time soaking in every minute of this joyous amble with my little baby. "Hurry up" she whispered. "Why?" I said, "This is fun." " I want to see Mark," she said. And then it hit me I was letting go and she was beginning a glorious new chapter in her life.
For some strange reason I never worried a minute about her balancing a family and a career. Nor did she. She had juggled so many of life's balls that it just seemed very easy for her to do. And boy did she do it. A dream son-in-law, two joyous grandsons and a highly successful career for me to brag about.
I have discovered with Dyllan that it is about holding on and letting go: holding on again letting go but always being there. That's how it works best and if you can learn when to let go and when to hold on then you will have it all and be a very loved father who watches his daughter thrive in this life.