I was small – A five-pound baby girl, born too early in an era that was not equipped to offer promises to parents of premature infants. Although he had hoped for a son, he would not deny the fact that regardless of my tiny hands, they were still big enough to wrap him around my fingers. My parents were told there was little chance that I would make it more than weeks, but eventually I was sent home with a grim prognosis.
My parents were only 20 years old, not really prepared for the care that I would require. They were the ones that literally stayed awake to make sure I was still breathing. Daddy made a habit of poking and prodding me if I slept too long. My mother just didn’t sleep except for exhaustion.
For the first year of my life, my mother said that he never referred to me by my name, I was his baby girl. That’s all he called me forever. He was very protective of me and made it clear that I was the boss. His friends were probably tired of being asked if they had seen “his baby girl” I had him wrapped around my finger from day one.
It was true that he had wanted a son. He held to that request until the end, but he would have to wait for a boy. He would, for now, have to settle for dolls and tea parties, and unfortunately for him, my imaginary friend that drove him crazy. I think he ended up sitting on him one day, and that was the end of that. I cried, and he brought home a dog. Yes, he was wrapped by the curly-headed new gal in his life.
He was a carpenter so I benefited from all sorts of cool toys, furniture, etc, a handcrafted toy box. It was large enough for him to hide inside just to make me giggle. He was so much fun, I realize now how much of a kid he still was, they both were young parents. There were many trips to the Chesapeake Bay for crabbing and fishing as a child. The entire family would have a cookout and stay up really late. I can still hear the lapping of the water and guitars and singing. The crab boils were not bad either.
I would have 5 years with my parents being together as a married couple, and only 10 having him in my life. A short span of time when I think of it now, but the memories seem like more. Maybe because we tried to make the most of every visit. I don’t recall him ever being harsh or angry with me about anything, only being silly and having fun. One time he did catch me playing with some matches and he immediately told me to put them away. (I had made a pattern in the sand and was going to light them all at one time) I remember tears welled up in my eyes because it was the only time I can remember him having to correct me about anything. I never wanted to disappoint him.
Only as an adult have I realized how difficult it had to be for him. He missed out on a lot of goodnight hugs and little things in my every day. I can remember how tight he would hug me when it was time to go back home..I can also recall that he hugged me and my brother for what seemed like a very long time. Now I understand. He had to make it last. He always wanted more time.
I am fortunate in my memories, blessed to have them. Although they may be a little blurred in detail at times, I have never doubted how much he loved me and how much he would have preferred things to be different. I’m sure most children from divorced parents would always wish for some kind of “different.”
He would always give me things to take home after a visit. One visit it was a set of deer horns from hunting, a trinket from the country store, a new coloring book and crayons, but I always left with something. I never left without him saying “You know how much I love you, right?” the words still break my heart to this day. I still had my Daddy wrapped around my finger.. just as all little girls should.
We were not afforded more time, only left with memories. No childs’ last memory of Daddy should be a funeral service, at least not for a 10-year-old little girl. He would never teach me how to drive his old green truck, or show off pictures of me in a prom dress. He would not be there to give me away at my wedding or live long enough to be a grandparent.
I have never blamed him harshly for his choices. As an adult I know that in life there are consequences to our choices. Some are choices in the beginning, but lead to something that spiral out of your control. I witnessed this as a small child, my Daddy was an alcoholic at a very young age, and died at the age of 30 in an automobile accident as a result. Children can’t process this at 10, but as an adult, it has been a journey of understanding, loving beyond circumstances, and being compassionate in spite of the different scary monsters that people face everyday. I knew enough about him to know that he battled and regretted his choices. It has always been enough for me, regardless.
I don’t know how different my life would be if he were still here? I don’t know what kind of struggles we would have faced or what victories we would have celebrated together, but I do know he would still be wrapped around my finger, I would make sure of it.
Don’t let choices and circumstances be your downfall, let them be your reason for extending grace to someone on their own journey, use life to make you better, not bitter. Learn from those you love, and those that love you. And girls, keep those daddy’s wrapped as tight as possible, I happen to think they depend on it more than we realize.