My dad, Tommy, has been gone for 5 years and was very sick at the end of his life. The hard memories are the most vivid in my mind. So the love my husband shows my kids gently reminds me that daddy was not always sick and I should dig deep to remember.
Sure, there are all those memories of holidays and movie marathons. We would race around the house and my dad would time us. I was in my 20s before he confessed that he never timed us. He made up numbers when we ran by his bedroom/office window.
My dad worked for the railroad and always had a side hustle. He provided for our family fiercely which meant he was not at everything or home every night, but I never felt like he was gone. He was always just a phone call away. (And daddy ALWAYS had a phone with him.)
When I graduated high school and moved away, my relationship with my dad changed. He’d always been a great dad. Disciplinarian and Spoiler. Solid and soft. A (teddy) bear of a man. After high school he became my friend.
I left for college with a high school sweetheart and no plan. I went thinking I had it figured out and this fella was for sure the future. Unfortunately, these kinds of plans don’t really come to fruition when one of the two are on a different path with a different person. (I’m sure you didn’t see that coming). The break-up was devastating. My self-esteem plummeted and my identity was shattered. Who am I without a boy? How do I put a step forward when it feels like there is no point in stepping? If that one didn’t think I was enough, why would anyone else?
I’m so thankful for that hurt now that 21 years have passed.
Picture Valentine’s Day at a small college where so many of the women were there for the “MRS” degree and their “ring by spring”. Picture my shattered self as I realize that there was no boy to send me flowers for the first time since middle school. Now picture me in a denim vest passing out black ribbons to rest of the sad souls on campus (it was the late 90s and Alanis knew my pain).
My dad knew I was hurting. My dad knew how to fix it. My dad showed up for me.
Tommy drove up to my dorm in my sister’s first car… that happened to be a really cool Jeep. Since she wouldn’t be 16 for a few more months, dad brought the Jeep to me for the Spring. Somehow he knew that having a cool jeep could help with the loneliness…everyone wants to be in a jeep during Texas springtime.
I remember that my dad could not stand for me to hurt and it was the first time I realized that he noticed. He showed up with flowers and whisked me away to the casino. I don’t remember if we ate. I don’t remember if we won any money. My dad knew that I just needed a little time away to shake the sadness. He took me out like you would a friend that was lonely and getting over a breakup. My dad gave me hours of his busy schedule. With those hours, my dad renewed my sense of worth and gently lifted my chin.
He gave me a break from the black ribbons and sappy girls at school.
He gave me hope that someone would think I was enough.
He gave me a smile, a cool car and a sweet memory.