“Old as she was, she still missed her Daddy sometimes.”
I have missed my Daddy for twenty-eight years now. It’s pretty rare that a moment in my own life goes by that I don’t think about what life would be like if he were still here. I can still see him, feel his hugs, and hear that laugh. Even at seven years old, the memories froze, just as they were. I miss him. And I wonder what he would be like today.
He lives on in my children, in me–so much in me–and in my little family. I see him everywhere. And while it isn’t the same as having him here, I am thrilled to know he has grandchildren. Two dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned grandchildren, just like him. That is some amazing stuff.
I met Jeff on my eighth birthday. I didn’t know it at that moment, but a few years later, he would become my Dad. It’s hard to work through those changes when you are young, and probably when you are older, too, but maybe it would make a little more sense. No one could replace my Daddy. Who did this guy think he was?
What I didn’t understand at the time and really up until a few years ago was that my Dad is a saint. Before he turned 30 years old, he met and fell in love with a young widow with a kid tagging along. As I’ve aged and experienced my twenties and thirties, and I think about the guys I’ve known and dated, I can’t imagine a one of them would have even given my mom the time of day. My Dad even went so far as to offer that I tag along when he asked my mom out on their first date because he “knew how difficult and expensive childcare could be.” Who is this guy?!
To pretend that the transition and our years together were rainbows and sunshine would be a lie. I like transparency, so I can tell you it was difficult. I didn’t like him at first. It felt far too much like he was trying to replace my Daddy, something I would have none of. There was no human-being on this planet that could take the place of my Daddy. Not a soul. He was my hero and my idol and I couldn’t comprehend at the time that Dad wasn’t there to replace him, yet become an extension of him since it was not possible for my Daddy to teach me things daddies teach their daughters.
Without Dad, I might not have learned that it’s okay to be different and even a little weird. For someone that always felt like an alien in a “normal” person’s world, this would prove to have long lasting impressions on me. I also wouldn’t have learned the value of the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary that likely weighed as much if not more as me. When I didn’t know what a word meant, if he quizzed me on a word’s meaning, he would tell me to go get that dictionary and he used it as teaching opportunity. My eyes rolled so hard out of my head during these moments, but it was because of these lessons that I became an avid reader and writer, and seeker of all of the information I can get my hands on.
If it weren’t for my Dad, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to move around all over the country, meeting new people and experiencing new places. At the time, I really didn’t understand the value that these moves would have, in fact, I was super devastated, but it taught me that getting out of one’s bubble and seeing new places and faces would give me the tools to do things I would never have otherwise. Now, I have the pleasure of having friends everywhere and to have experienced lots of change, which really balances a person.
Watching Dad turn into PeePaw has been my favorite part of our growing relationship. Just like he took me right under his wing so many years ago, he adores his grandkids, teaching them all of the ways of the world via his vast knowledge and teaching moments.
I may not say it enough, and I may still call you by your first name, but you will always be Dad to me. There aren’t many of you in the world, and man, did my mom and I hit the jackpot when you found us.