Little Peeper

Thirty two years ago my life was changed forever. Our daughter Elizabeth Grace Wilhelm was born. It seems like yesterday – she was like a rosebud wrapped in a blanket. 6 bs. 10 oz. & 18″ long. So tiny. So pink. So beautiful.

Elizabeth Grace was too big a name for such a tiny little girl – almost at once she became Bess and because of her big blue eyes I often called her Peeper. She stole my heart and I was immediately wrapped securely around her tiny little finger. Speaking for all daddies of daughters – it’s a place we love to be!

Bess has been trying to “get big” her whole it seems. As a toddler she wanted to be as big as older brother Tyson and for a while at about age 10 or 12 she might have been a half-inch taller (although there seems to be significant debate concerning that assertion). At age 3 she became a big sister to baby brother Blake and assumed the role with confidence. A favorite family photo is one of her holding baby Blake while she is really still a baby herself.

Bess then...

Always the peace-maker and diplomat of the family. She has made the boys be better brothers by her very existence. She is the heart and soul of our family. Her beauty, like her mother’s, comes from deep within – she makes everyone she encounters better for having known her. She is her mother’s daughter!

And she’s fun and funny! Laughter has always been held in high regard in our family and she has provided much of it through the years. She’s almost as funny as I am.

She was a determined student and athlete. Although she was smaller than most of her classmates she never “took a backseat” to anyone in her class. Playing basketball when you’re 5′-1″ takes guts (sorry Bess – I know that you’re really 5′-2″). She graduated at the top of her high school class and went on to win scholarships to the University of Wisconsin where she graduated with a double major.

She’s now a wife and mother of two and that is without doubt her greatest accomplishment. Her daughter and son are reflections of the love that she and Travis share. Their faith, their love, their hope for the future is wrapped up in those two wonderful little creatures. Amazing!

...and now.

So there you have it. She is big now. Big life. Big dreams. Big hope. Big love.

But today she’s still my little girl. My Little Peeper. And I hope she never gets “too big” for that.



P.S. Peeper, I’m glad you’re my Peeper, Happy Birthday! – Love, Dad

In Her Heart

Our daughter Bess told us, that last Sunday when they were entering church for Mass, our  granddaughter Anna said, “Nana and Pawpaw are here!” Not wanting Anna to be upset upon realizing that we in fact were not there, Bess replied, “No Anna, remember Nana and Pawpaw are still in England.” Anna’s response, “Mommy, they’re here in my heart!”


So after we wiped away each other’s tears and clearly comprehended what we had heard, an overwhelming sense of calm and joy prevailed. “In her heart” is exactly where I want to be! What a gift, those words. What a prayer answered. My biggest concern about leaving home and family behind was that we might become strangers to our grandchildren – that the geographical distance would create an emotional distance as well.

All of that was put to rest with Anna’s simple statement – we are in her heart – and she is always in ours! I’m not certain how a three year old (she’ll be four at the end of March) can be so wise but I thank God for her wisdom and her spirit.

And wrapped up in her tiny heart is exactly where I want to be.

Jesus called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  Luke 18:16



If The Prodigal Son Had A Sister…

I have two sons and a daughter. The sons both live a distance from us – one in Wisconsin and one in Korea. The daughter lives nearby. We see the sons (if we’re lucky) a couple of times a year. We see the daughter (and we are lucky) several times a week.

When we talk (Skype) with the sons, it’s usually about important upcoming events and significant happenings – weddings, births, travel, careers, etc. When we talk to the daughter, it can be mundane – what’s for dinner, aches and pains, the weather, etc.

It occurred to me recently that perhaps our daughter might sometimes feel like the older brother of the Prodigal Son. Needless to say, she’s here day-in and day-out listening to our latest complaints and answering our latest requests – always supportive, always cheerful, always ready for more. When “the boys” come to town it’s cause célèbre. And she often helps plan and carry out whatever festivities take place. By contrast, when she comes to dinner, she’s expected to set the table, help prepare the meal and clean up afterwards. Hardly seems fair…

Lucky Dad with Best Daughter in the World

But fairness is never part of the equation. Bess (our beautiful and gracious daughter) has inherited her mother’s gift of charity. She seldom thinks of herself first. She wants EVERYONE to be happy (and cared for, and well fed, and loved, etc.). She always gives of herself and she rarely expects anything in return. Her cheerfulness is contagious and she makes others happy by just being around her (again – a gift from her mother).

She’s here. She’s available. She’s constant. And I know that they say (whoever they are) that familiarity breeds contempt. But in our case it seems to me that familiarity creates family. We are family. And I need my daughter. And I hope she knows how much I love and appreciate her. I try to tell her in lots of small ways because we don’t have big celebrations for her and Travis and their children. We just have small celebrations and familiar and comfortable times together. And for me those small intimate gatherings are almost always more meaningful than the grand events planned for our sons.

And because of who she is, I doubt that Bess has ever resented her brothers or felt pushed aside when we “slaughter the fatted calf.” But just in case, she should know:

My (daughter), you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. ~ Luke 15:31


Denis (Dad)

Mother, Wife, Daughter

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I’ve been thinking about what it means to a be a mother and wife and daughter ~ But more importantly what it means to be all three. Of course all women/girls are daughters; they’re born and they have mothers. And many women become wives and I suppose even more become mothers (who really needs a husband?).

I’m blessed to have all three in my life; my mother, my wife and my daughter. And each of them is in fact a mother, a wife and a daughter. They share much in common; these three women. The common thread is their love for our family.


I love that you taught me how to pray and have faith in God.

Deb & Mom

I love that you love Dad (and he still adores you, too).

I love that all of us inherited your sense of humor (even though Dad thinks he’s the funny one).

I love that you always look pretty; I have always been so proud to be seen with you.

I love that you love Deb as much as your own daughter.

I love the example that you set for each of us to follow.


I love that you are most giving, loving person that I have ever met.

I love that you are the most natural mother in the world ~ you knew instantly what Tyson needed when he was first placed in your arms ~ and you still do. Ditto for Bess and Blake.

I love that you have made whevever we’ve ‘hung our hat’ a home and filled it with your love.

I love that you’ve made me laugh everyday of our lives together (even though I’m the funny one).

I love that you are like a lioness when it comes to protecting your children and grandchildren.

I love that your beauty on the outside is ‘trumped’ by your beauty within.

I can’t imagine my life without you.


I love that you are the best parts of your Mom and me (mostly your Mom).

Deb & Bess

I love that you married exactly the right guy for you (and for us!)
I love watching you “mother” Anna and Noah; you’ve got that natural thing that Mom’s got and the simple beauty of it breaks my heart (in a good way). 
I love that you love God and have instilled faith in Anna at such an early age.
I love that you’ve inherited Gram’s sense of humor (even though Travis thinks he’s the funny one!).
I love that you have always been the best daughter in the world (I’ve always felt sorry for all those other dads). And now you’re the best Mommy, too (ask Anna & Noah).

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there. Remember none of us would be here without you!



The Daughter I Never Wanted

One of our daughter’s best friends is named Kristy.  I call her Wooder (as do many of her friends).  She calls me Big D (but no one else does).   When Wooder’s parents moved out of the country due to her dad’s job transfer, Wooder moved in with us.  The girls had just graduated from high school and were both headed to The University of Wisconsin that fall.  Wooder spent part of the summer in Italy with her folks but the rest of the time she lived with us.  Weekends home during the school year were spent at our house and she also stayed with us the following summer, too.  Holidays she would fly to Italy and on at least one of those trips she took Bess with her. 

That first summer I joked that Wooder was the “Daughter I Never Wanted”.  Now I realize that nothing could be further from the truth.  But that first summer Wooder was a ‘third thumb’, a ‘fifth wheel, a ‘fish out of water’.  You get my drift: she didn’t fit in.  Our family, my wife, our daughter, our son, and myself all worked – ALL SUMMER.  Bess worked as an intern at my office.  Blake worked on a seed farm.  Deb was a parish secretary.  I was a project manager.  And Wooder slept in.  Some days we would all come home from work in time for Wooder to announce that she would be “taking a shower now”.  Her only responsibility was to let our little dog Sadie out to “go potty”.  Poor Sadie – good thing she had a strong bladder!

It wasn’t that Wooder was lazy – she just didn’t need to do anything on weekdays.  Saturdays were different.  We all cleaned the house and did chores.  At first I believe that Wooder thought I was dictatorial – GET UP!  VACUUM!  NOW!  My kids were used to this but Wooder probably thought she had been sold into bondage.  But we all adapted.  I realized that Wooder was very helpful when asked to help (my wife recommended this tactic) and she began to understand that my bombastic approach to household chores was just so much bluster and posturing – no one really took me seriously.

Pretty soon Wooder was part of our family and joined in with dinner table debates.  Often she would be my ally when some of our ‘discussions’ got heated in that kitchen on Westfield Road.  She agreed with me that the guy that my daughter was dating was all wrong for her – of course we were both wrong about that!  (Sorry Travis, I love you!  I just didn’t know you then.)  She shared family birthdays and cookouts and running errands with us.  Once, when it was just Wooder and me, a deer leapt over the hood of the car as we were driving down Cedarburg Road – no one would believe that story today if Wooder hadn’t been there!

Cindy and Wooder

Today she is Doctor Wood.  She’s a bio-medical something or other.  I know she wears a lab coat and works on really important stuff that I’m too dim-witted to understand.  I’m proud of Wooder.  I’m proud of the person that she’s become.  Life hasn’t always been easy.  Wooder is gay and not everyone can handle that.  Truth be known, it kind of  “threw me for a loop” at first but I love Wooder and I’m proud of her.  So maybe it’s gay pride that I feel and that’s okay with me.  She and her wife Cindy (yes wife – it’s legal in Massachusetts – get with it, rest of the country) are blessings to all who know and love them.  And even though Wooder’s the “Daughter I Never Wanted”, I’m glad that she’s a part of our family.  And I hope she’ll always know that she has a place in our hearts and our home.


Big D