Our Annual Love Letter to Daddy...
I love the word, Daddy. It just sounds like someone you would love. Of course, I tend to think about things as if they are chapters from a good southern novel, so a Daddy for me connotes a big, strong, handsome man in uniform in an old black and white Polaroid from 1943. He’s with his Navy buddies on a crowded ship in the middle of the Pacific. They’re off duty, drunk, smoking and playing poker on an overturned bucket from their bunks below deck.
I picture a Daddy tying his little girl’s shoe laces and teaching her how to make the loop go under and through. He is patient and funny. The little girl knows her life parameters from the inside of his embrace. When she looks up at him, she knows his strength. She hears laughter roar from his mouth, then drift down to her level as cool air does from a ceiling fan on a hot day. That’s enough to make anyone smile.
A Daddy to me is someone who is more comfortable and emotionally available with his baby girl child than he could ever be with his wife…just those moments in time where his intimacy is distinctly a Daddy’s, vulnerable and sweeter than a chocolate truffle. His little girl is the prettiest, smartest and toughest prodigy on the planet…and he’d beat up anyone who disagreed.
Daddys smell of fresh aftershave and starch. When they’re dressed up, they look so smart. They seem indestructible and pretty at the same time. To see a Daddy open the door for his daughter, no matter what age, is crushing in its simplicity and gentleness. To watch this couple dance can break the heart. To see a Daddy kiss his baby girl goodbye on her way to college can make you cry in your car as you drive by…a total stranger, brought to your knees with that soft, sweet gesture.
Daddys are protective of their young ladies. You’d better be a better man than her Daddy if you want to marry his daughter. He’ll watch you and if you hurt her, he will act like he could kill you, but he’ll rush to her aid and tell her to forget all about you instead because, “Daddy’s here now.” Daddys buy their girls the best presents when they’re sad. Nothing is too good or costs too much for a Daddy to see her smile again.
And, if a Daddy’s young woman-girl has a baby girl of her own, he’ll melt at the sight of her, swoon at her whimper and gasp when she giggles. He gets to do it all over again, and you’ll have to beg him to leave when it’s way past her bedtime. He’ll begrudgingly go home, and when he sees his own love, the woman who gave him his baby girl and her own girl, he’ll cry in her arms at the excruciating beauty the world can hold. Daddy’s an old softie.
A Daddy is even more handsome when his own skin is old and soft. He still smells of aftershave and starch, but also like a tree who will lose its leaves come Fall. He stands stooped like the tree, but with wisdom that comes from all the seasons of his growth. Daddys finally learn how lost their girls would be without them and how rooted they are in the periphery of those lives. They carry a predisposed sadness with them wherever they go, underneath their crooked smiles and inside their clothes…just waiting to go.
I have knowledge that Daddys are all of these things. My women friends tell me stories and I laugh and cry with them. I use their Daddys as my own. My Daddy died before I started school, went to my first dance or drove for the first time. He’s watching me though and smiling down at his baby girl child.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy
I have a few more memories of daddy that KK does because I was every bit of eight years old when he died so suddenly. My memories of him are like a series of snapshots, all laid out in a row like faded and yellowing pictures of a daydream.
It’s strange, the things that stick in your mind. I remember his shoes in the bottom of the closet. He wore black or brown, leather, wingtip shoes. I can see the bottom of that closet as plain as day in my mind. I was there often because that’s where our cats always had their kittens. Mother had a towel in the bottom of the dark, cool closet because she knew Jennifer, our Persian cat, would go there to have her litters of squirmy, wormy baby cats. I would go and hold them….and look at my daddy’s shoes. They were big and hard, and smelled of leather and baby powder.
My big, handsome daddy sat in his favorite reading chair every night and read books. He was known for being an avid reader and would even retreat to a corner with any book he could find, even at a party at somebody else’s house. Anyway, he would sit in his chair with a book, and with the reading lamp glowing all around him, he looked like a movie star. Lots of people said he looked just like Ray Miland. If you ever saw the movie, ‘Golden Earrings’ with Marlene Dietrich, and you saw him come out of the gypsy wagon, (hands on his hips and all decked out like a gypsy), you would know what dashing is. I would go and sit in his lap and ask him to tell me the story in the book. I don’t remember what he would say. I just remember his big hand around my waist, his kiss on my cheek, and his pretty eyes.
I have a telling memory about this big, strong, oilman. I sat in his lap on the couch and watched the movie, ‘Little Women’ with him. When Amy died, he cried. I think he loved little girls. I put my tiny hand on his face.
I have a very faded picture of me on my daddy’s lap. He has on a red, flannel shirt and his large man-hands are wrapped around my knees. I have on my favorite green, velvet dress. I think I’m four years old. It’s like I actually remember when this photo was taken. But that’s impossible….isn’t it? Our faces are like childhood and wisdom, but seem to go together anyway, in a compatible and yet stunningly different way. Like the difference between a hard leather shoe…and a kitten that fits inside it. My memories of him are in a cool, dark place, safe and soft and handled with care.
Our daddy who art in heaven,
Happy Father’s Day,