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The pacing father

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In a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating my 12th Father’s Day. I remember the evening I became a father and held my baby girl for the first time in the hospital delivery room. A different kind of delivery — cupcakes — made me realize that fathers spend a lot of time waiting, often under stressful conditions.

The day before my daughter’s last birthday, she and I went to the bakery department of our local store and ordered 48 cupcakes — a dozen vanilla and three-dozen chocolate.

Jessie asked for buttercream icing, sprayed with rainbow colors and topped with sprinkles. I emphasized, “Please have them ready by 9:30 tomorrow morning.”

My job was to deliver the cupcakes to Jessie’s school by 10:45 am, so she could share them with her friends at recess. I arrived at the bakery at 9:45 am. The employee behind the counter was decorating a cake.

“Good morning. I’d like to pick up the cupcakes I ordered yesterday. It’s under Patrick Hempfing.”

“Oh, I was getting ready to call you. I couldn’t read the writing on the order form. How many dozen did you want?”

My heart sank. She didn’t even start yet? I calmly explained my order from the previous day and asked, “Would you please, please hurry? I need to be out of here no later than 10:10.”

She looked at me sternly and said, “I’m finishing this cake order now. The cupcakes are made; I only need to decorate them.”

I paced up the aisle past the muffins and pies. I paced down the aisle alongside the donuts and bread. The thought of snacking on a donut for comfort crossed my mind.

I kept walking by the bakery to monitor the progress.

Finally, the decorator grabbed four clear-plastic containers and filled each slot with a cupcake. She put white icing in her cone-shaped pastry bag and squeezed a swirl on each cupcake. I complimented her for doing it quickly, trying to motivate her to finish as soon as possible. The clock was ticking.

As I paced, it occurred to me that 11 years ago to the day, I paced outside of my wife’s operating room. Mattie had a C-section and I had to wait in the hall while they put in the epidural. I vividly remember walking back and forth in front of the door, trying not to puke. Apparently, little has changed.

On one of my strolls past the cake decorator, she asked what colors I wanted. By this time, it didn’t matter.

“How about pink, yellow, and green?” she asked. I gave a quick approval and paced some more. A few times I stopped and peeked over the counter to check her progress. Then something else hit me.

Eleven years ago, I could have looked over the blue paper that divided Mattie’s top half from her bottom half where they were working on the C-section.

That time, instead of monitoring the progress, I opted to remain firmly in the chair by Mattie’s head. There was no way I was going to peek over at that.

At 10:07 am, I finally stood in the checkout line with four-dozen cupcakes. They weren’t cheap. Again, I thought back 11 years — the cupcakes were a lot less expensive than the hospital bills that followed Jessie’s birth.

I rushed home to pick up Mattie, and the plates, napkins, and drinks. We made it to Jessie’s school a few minutes early, and the knots in my stomach began to loosen.

Jessie’s friends enjoyed the cupcakes, though vanilla was more popular than we expected, and I worried we’d run out and be left with just chocolate. How could cupcakes be so stressful?

But I didn’t pace, and we left the school playground with two vanilla cupcakes and lots of chocolate ones. Eleven years earlier, I left the operating room with one beautiful baby girl.

That beautiful girl now bakes me something special each year for Father’s Day. When she’s creating masterpieces in the kitchen, she usually requests, “Don’t look.” If she asks that this year, I’ll try not to pace or peek at what’s going on, even if my kitchen becomes a sprinkle-covered disaster zone. Instead, I’ll make every effort to relax and reflect on the joy of being a father. I’ll remember that when Jessie was born, I didn’t look over that blue-paper divider, where I’m sure things were pretty messy, but I sure have enjoyed what came out.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy Father’s Day!

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year-long career in banking, accounting, and auditing before becoming a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and author of the book MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at Amazon.com Follow him at www.facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.

Updated 5:21 pm, December 9, 2016
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