Bedtime Stories, From A Dad In Afghanistan

Originally published on June 19, 2011 6:31 pm

Karri Bielwicz was five months pregnant when she found out her husband, Ken, was going to be sent to Afghanistan for a year.

She scoured the Web and various military sources for ideas on how to keep their marriage going and how to keep him a constant presence in the life of their daughter, Abigail.

"A lot of the literature suggested that he read books, just to hear his voice," she tells NPR. "We made the decision to have Ken read to a camera five storybooks for Abigail."

So every night, mother and daughter open up the computer, hit play, and Daddy gets to read Abigail a story. From the goofy, interactive book Dancing Duck to the sentimental Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You, Abbey gets to see her father and hear his voice every night.

Bielwicz admits that during the first couple weeks of her husband's deployment, it was especially hard to watch him on that screen.

"I pretty much cried every time that he read to her, especially when she would point to him and say 'da da da da,'" she says.

But she feels the stories are doing Abigail a world of good as she adjusts to life without her father in the house.

"She definitely recognizes his voice and even tries to hug the computer once in a while. ... I think it will be helpful for her when he does come back," she says.

Her husband is due to come home in February.

"That way he's not quite the stranger. She'll know his voice, she'll know what he looks like," Karri Bielwicz says. "So I think she'll be affectionate towards him and we can start our life as a family again — together."

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LAURA SULLIVAN, host: And now a Father's Day story about a dad half a world away, and how he stays connected to his wife and baby daughter.

KARRI BIELWICZ: My name is Karri Bielwicz. My husband, Ken, just recently deployed to Afghanistan. When he deployed, we had a 6-month-old daughter, Abigail. We made the decision to have Ken read to a camera five storybooks for Abigail.

KEN BIELWICZ: (Reading) There was an old lady who swallowed a trout. That splished and splashed and thrashed about.

BIELWICZ: So every night, we open up the computer, we hit play, and we watch Daddy read a book.

BIELWICZ: (Reading) There was an old lady who swallowed a seal. She let out a squeal when she swallowed the seal.

BIELWICZ: See dada?

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY VOCALIZING)

BIELWICZ: Ken and I have been married for two years now, so this is the first time that he's been deployed since we've been married. As new parents, it's a whole new experience. So I try to find all the literature possible of best ways to keep a marriage going, and to keep him in Abby's life. A lot of the literature suggested that he read books - just to hear his voice.

BIELWICZ: (Reading) Duck loves to dance, but she isn't very good.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY LAUGHING)

BIELWICZ: One of Abby's favorite books is "Dancing Duck." I think she likes it just because of the way Ken reads it. It's a book that you pull out the last word. So she gets very excited about the tad that's going to be pulled out.

BIELWICZ: (Reading) Buddy loves to hide, but she also likes being bad.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY COOING)

BIELWICZ: Probably after this whole year of deployment, I will not like these books anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BIELWICZ: Another book that he reads probably isn't her favorite, but it's one of mine because it's very sentimental. It's "Wherever You Go, My Love Will Find You." And I think Ken, probably when he was reading this, got pretty sentimental as well. He starts it off by saying:

BIELWICZ: (Reading) Abigail, wherever you are, my love will find you. I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go.

BIELWICZ: The first couple weeks were hard, hearing him and seeing him read to her, just because I was still emotional from him leaving - and obviously, I am still emotional about him being gone. Yeah, the first couple weeks, I pretty much cried every time that he read to her, especially when she would point to him - and saying da, da, da, da.

BIELWICZ: (Reading) So someday if you're lonely, or someday you're sad, or you strike out at baseball, or think you've been bad, just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair. That's me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

BIELWICZ: Who is this?

ABIGAIL BIELWICZ: Dada. Da, da, da, da, da. Pa, pa, pa, pa.

BIELWICZ: Papa?

ABIGAIL: Pa, pa, pa, pa.

BIELWICZ: She definitely recognizes his voice - and even tries to hug the computer once in a while. I think it will be helpful for her when he does come back. That way, he's not quite the stranger. So I think she'll be affectionate towards him, and we can start our life as a family again, together.

BIELWICZ: (Reading) You are my angel, my darling, my star. My love will find you wherever you are. You are loved. I love you, Abigail.

BIELWICZ: I guess we'd like just to say happy Father's Day to Ken. You're a great father from a million miles away. We love you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SULLIVAN: Karri Bielwicz and Abby will be reunited with Ken in February.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.