By Joyce L. C. Keith –
*Joy is the talented wife of our ever lovable Cantankerous Critic and proud mother of 3.
My earliest memories are of my dad giving me horsey rides in the living room of our brick bungalow house in Chicago. My dad was a very large man. He was a giant as far as I was concerned standing 6 ft. 3 in., with big bright blue eyes, and black hair. For as long as I can remember, he always struggled with his weight. Sometimes he was as thin as 220 lbs. and a couple of times I remember he was tipping the scales around 400 lbs.
Nonetheless, he was always a big guy. When we would be driving home late at night coming from a party of some kind, I used to pretend faking being asleep. I wanted those big strong arms to carry me up the front stairs, into the house, take off my shoes, and tuck me safe and warm into bed. That was my dad when I was a little girl. Girls love those giant men. Dads are “Giants” you know? I was maybe two or three feet tall; to us you look as if you can touch the clouds. You can reach everything. Our dad is our knight in shining armor. You can slay dragons and you can rescue the princess from her eminent danger. You can throw me up into the air and I’ll never fear of falling. I’ll express screams of glee. I’ll cling onto your leg and have you walk around the house with me because you’re so strong. You are my dad!
I was very sick for most of my kindergarten year, in and out of hospitals, and I remember him coming in very early in the morning. I would wake up with the sun just breaking through and see the shadow of that giant heartbroken man sitting and weeping next to my bed. He would have just gotten home from the night shift of work and would sit beside me before he headed off to go to bed. He would hold my frail hand and tell me he loved me, and then he would kiss my fevered forehead and head to the hall trying to hide his tears as he swiftly left the room. I could see his shoulders shaking as he tried to keep his fear from me. Dads LOVE their daughters.
But, what happens? Why do so many dads stop showing that love? Why, oh why, when we start to find a little attitude and self-expression, do you let us walk away? Men, as I’ve come to find, are simple. Yes, you like sports and your favorite shirt that you’ve had since college and your movies or whatever; you are simple. We girls sometimes learn this and bat our eyelashes and call you “daddy” to get you to give us what we want. We know how to ask for what we want. But when we tell you, or sometimes we don’t tell you, that we don’t want you to talk to us about a certain subject – boys or our hair or the new makeup that we put on, or the fact that we’re getting to be a young lady and have periods and are wearing bras – it doesn’t mean that you should stop spending time with us. We are still and always will be your daughters. We may not be three feet tall anymore, but your arms are always a strong refuge.
Your wife is not your daughter’s voice. If you want your relationship with your daughter to continue, you need to talk to her. You are not her BFF either. You are her dad. You changed her diapers, and you walked her when she was fussy and cried for what seemed to be hours. You drove her around the block until she fell asleep. Why stop doing what’s necessary?
He wasn’t the best, but he was my dad. He let go of me too soon when I was becoming a young lady, but his eyes were never happier than the day he gave me away to my husband. He, again in his giant form, walked with me arm in arm down the aisle slightly shaking as he, with pinkies out, lifted my veil, kissed me and handed me to Scott. He tried to hold back the tears, but again his shoulders gave him away. We danced our father daughter dance together, as I can’t think of another time we had ever danced, as two people who had such a strong tie that bound us from my birth.
Daughters need their dads. I didn’t see my dad very often in his last few years as we lived many miles apart. He would spend most days locked in his dark bedroom. My mom could hardly get him to come out. But when I did make it to their home, I would go in to see that giant man in his frail state and I would take him by the hand and kiss his forehead and tell him that I loved him and tell him that dinner was at five. I was cooking and I’d see him at the table. He’d come out right at five, eat, and smile. He would start to come out to be my dad, because dads don’t like to look weak to their daughters even in their worst state. I still need my dad. I will see him again in heaven. He was first glimpse of what I wanted to find in my own husband. He treated my mom like a queen. I saw with my own eyes what a long lasting committed marriage was supposed to look like, both good days and bad days. They had been married just a week shy of 45 years! He taught me how to shoot a gun, clean a fish, and be a well-mannered respectable young lady who grew to be the best wife and mom he could have wished for me to be. Those strong hands will always be what I think of when I think of my father. They carried me to bed even when he knew I was faking sleep; he didn’t mind. Dads never really mind being a bit of magic for their daughters, do they? Just don’t ever let it stop because, even as we all age, we still have a special connection as father and daughter. We will always need you.