Fathers and daughters. They are special relationships complicated by a dad’s desire to protect his little girl and a daughter’s desire to be independent. Growing up, my relationship with my dad was no different. I realize now though, that I was very lucky. My childhood was somewhat of a Beaver Cleaver existence compared to that of a lot of my peers. My growing up years were untouched by divorce, abuse, alcoholism and some of the troubles other kids faced. I always knew my parents loved each other and loved us. While money certainly didn’t fall out of our pockets, we had a nice home, plenty to eat and extras like vacations. I naively thought everyone else lived like I did. It took years for me to figure out that my life was more special than normal. As each day passes, I feel more and blessed to have such wonderful parents, especially a father who was a strong influence in my life.
I still think of myself as Daddy’s little girl and probably always will.
I’m the firstborn and only girl so I was his little buddy for five years before the rough and tumble boys came along. While I don’t have many memories of those early years, I do have sweet flashes of riding high on his shoulders or being lifted up onto something tall to be next to him.
I loved riding on his shoulders, holding onto his uplifted hands and seeing the world from a dizzying perch. Feeling adventurous, yet protected and special. I wish every child could know that feeling. He taught me many things in those early years. He brought home my first dog, taught me how to ride my first bike and showed me the value of hard work.
Daddy was busy, very busy when I was a kid. He worked swing shift and a lot of overtime to support three kids and a wife who worked in the home. He was also a shade tree mechanic, an air conditioning technician and a general handy man who fixed everything in our house that broke. He didn’t have a whole lot of time to play pitch and catch, so most of my favorite memories of time spent with my dad are of helping him with some kind of chore or fix-it project. Apparently, I started early. It appears I was in his business right from the beginning.
And I stayed there. I tagged along behind him while he winterized the old farmhouse we lived in for a few years, while he hung wallpaper, fed the dog, worked in the yard and fixed the car. I was daddy’s little helper. I handed him tools and held the light while he worked underneath the car and threatened to shove the emission control system up Ralph Nader’s backside. I signaled which headlights worked and which ones didn’t. I pumped the brakes. Lord, how I pumped the brakes. I pumped ‘til my little legs couldn’t pump any more, and still he would holler from underneath the car, “Keep pumping!” As I got bigger, the chores got harder. I learned how to mow and eventually ended up doing just about all of our mowing, until Super Cop got big enough to take it over, and I got a real job. When I was twelve I helped to drywall the house we built. I covered nail after nail with mud, standing on a ladder next to Daddy while he sang Get Up and Boogie along with the radio.
We did a lot of work together, me and Daddy. Well, he did most of the work and I helped, but I didn’t mind. It was time spent together, and that’s what counted. I never felt deprived that we didn’t get to play together much or that he missed a school program every now and then because of work. That’s just the way it was. I always understood Daddy was making a living and taking care of us, even when he wasn’t in the same room. He was a strong and sturdy presence…always. He still is. He’s always there when I need him, even though his little girl is nearly 44 years old now. In many ways I still feel like I’m riding on his shoulders and hanging onto his hands.
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