February 13th was the 15th anniversary of my daddy’s death. Every year on that day, I take time to remember what a profound influence he had on my life. After my mother died when I was eight, and before he married my stepmother, we had such a special relationship. It was much like the one depicted in the movie “Paper Moon” between Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. Only, rather than being a con-man, my dad was a policeman, someone I was always proud of and respected. He taught me how to draw cartoons, shoot craps, and play the harmonica. He instilled in me a love for writing and reading which shaped my life. He fed my imagination and creativity and always encouraged me to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to. He was funny and strong but, over time, my stepmother slowly began to poison his mind against me because I was “so spoiled.” And the loss of our closeness was overwhelming for me. In his later years, when he became ill, I was never able to even talk to him on the phone without her picking up the other line. I think she felt the need to screen our calls, lest he remember how much he once loved me. But, despite all the things that went “after,” she could never rob me of the memories of what went “before.”
I was his first-born. He did love me. And this is a little poem I once wrote in remembrance of him.He was no mechanic, to say the least, so it was not surprising that when my daddy put training wheels on my bicycle, they were uneven..comically uneven. “Hold on,” he said, scratching his head, and made an adjustment. They wobbled. And another adjustment. They wobbled. And another and another… They still wobbled.
He looked so lost and frustrated that I finally blurted out,
“Daddy, let me try once without the training wheels.” And, as I straddled that then-frightening bicycle, I somehow knew that this was something that I had to do for him… With brows scrunched together, I put my whole concentration into it… “one foot after another, one foot after another,” faster and faster and faster until…Glory Hallelujah!…I RODE! And his smile lit up my world with the light of 10,000 candles. And he was happy. And I was happy. After all, even a six year old little girl knows that her daddy has his pride.
I’ll never forget you, Dad. Never.