A young country couple waited anxiously for the birth of their second child, a baby girl. It was the late 1960’s and their small farming endeavor focused mainly on pigs and produce. It was a family business varying according to what might be a bestseller or a bumper crop for that particular season. The father had just celebrated his birthday and held his breath wondering if he would be blessed with the arrival of his little princess to share that day. But it was not to be. Although his son shared his grandfather’s birthday as was stubbornly predicted by said grandfather, the little girl was set to arrive in her own time.
September passed and October rolled in with the first whispers of fall. The temperature began to cool down in the humid Mississippi climate and the leaves began to flutter to the ground. Colors became vibrant in that country paradise and all the sows began to resemble the young mother heavy with pregnancy. Saturday night found the expectant mother sitting in the pig parlor with the expectant sows and working to try to calm them and monitor their progress. Suddenly the first contractions came, not for the sows, but for the mother. It became evident the little girl would arrive shortly. Later the little girl would blame the mother for being responsible for her pug nose and for being called “Miss Piggy” in her elementary school days due to the fact that she spent too much time in the pig parlor before the little girl was born.
Sunday rolled around to the birth of the baby girl and at once she captured her father’s heart and likewise he held hers. From that point on she could do no wrong in his eyes and even moments of proposed chastisement for some childhood mischief melted his heart, especially since the little girl had a habit of turning purple at the thought of a spanking. The big blue eyes and blonde curls continued to twine their way around the father’s heart and although his work took him away much of the time, he would always be there with an encouraging word at the right time.
Most of the memories the little girl had of her early years with her father were of sitting in her Christmas pajamas in his lap in the big chair watching the Christmas tree lights before bedtime. Later, there were times when she played hairstylist while Daddy reclined in his favorite chair. It was just the right height for the princess to stand behind and brush the top of his slowly balding head. On school mornings the little girl would wake to find her allowance carefully laid out on the lid of the piano, propped against the hinge of the beautiful vanilla wood-three quarters, two dimes, and a nickel. There were three rows of change. One for her older brother and one for her younger brother. She always took ownership of the middle row.
Her eighth birthday rolled around and Daddy had to work, but during the night the little princess awoke to find a huge, beautiful baby doll standing on a chair beside her bed. The doll became one of her favorites and she smiled because she knew Daddy had not forgotten her special day. She hoped that Momma had saved him a piece of cake.
Many times when she had a moment with her father, he would pull her long hair, now turned a golden brown, around to her face and tell her how beautiful she was. He always called her his little princess and told her she would always be beautiful to him and how much he loved her. This made the little girl’s heart leap and made her feel very special. School days were not always easy and then, at the age of ten, the little girl experienced a traumatic loss of innocence at the hands of a terrible person. She didn’t tell anyone for fear that her Daddy would be prosecuted for killing the man responsible. She would not want to see her Daddy go to jail, or worse. She just basked in the love she felt from her parents and the affirmation that she was special and beautiful, and she kept her secret.
Soon she experienced her first teenage romance and heartbreak. The father was so distraught to see his princess crying that he promised her a Porsche for graduation if she would just stop crying and be okay. Needless to say, the crying did not immediately stop, and the Porsche did not materialize because the family business folded along with a tragic death and chaos entered the young girl’s life.
The subsequent years brought heartache into the home because despite the fact that she loved her father, he had feet of clay and his wanderings tore apart her parent’s marriage. The thought of having to move from her childhood home and living without her Daddy was heartbreaking. On the last day before the big move, the father came to say goodbye. The little girl had baked chocolate chip cookies and as her father was leaving, she quickly bagged them, wrote a note telling him how much she loved him, and ran to take them to the car and give him one final hug. Everything she had known since birth seemed to be snatched away in that moment.
Moving to a far away state and back again did not change things. The divorce was turbulent and although the little girl loved her Daddy so much, she had chosen to be with her mother. Finally a stepmother entered the picture and some of the unconditional love she had felt from her father seemed to be refocused. However, that did not last long and one day he held her face in his hands again and told her how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. He stilled called her his princess even though she was now in her twenties.
Years passed and for a while the young woman worked for her father in the family business in various roles and also as someone he could talk with about her siblings and other family matters. The care of her grandmother was finally passed on to her because her father was an only child and the grandmother loved the young woman as if she were her very own daughter. Bad business decisions and the loss of income forced the young woman to seek employment and to further her education outside of the family business. This was another heartbreaking separation as her father had hoped she would eventually run the business with her siblings. However, he let her go to seek her own path.
Several years later it became obvious that diabetes would force the father to downsize his business and cost him a limb. Further illness cost him another limb and the family business was no more. He reconciled himself to his original home place, the home of his mother who had long since been confined to an assisted care facility due to a stroke. Plans were made for reconciliation between the young woman’s mother and father. After almost two decades, they would remarry and live out the rest of their years together. Not a storybook ending, but it was closure and the young woman rejoiced that her family would be together once again.
A sore throat brought about a doctor’s visit and the horrible news that it was not a simple sore throat. It was cancer. Surgery brought the insertion of a trachea and the family was given the news that the father would only be with them for a few short weeks. There was nothing to be done. The young woman sobbed at the horrible news and began to work to help care for her father along with her mother and siblings. Time spent together was precious and there were many memorable moments. Her father always smiled when she walked into the room and his blue eyes always mirrored his love for her. The weeks went by too swiftly and the time came when the young woman had to whisper in his ear “I love you Daddy. I want you to stay, but I know you need to go. It is okay. I will take care of mamaw and mom. You can go.” Those were some of the hardest words every spoken in the little girl’s life.
Two days later, he was gone.
My dad was one of my staunchest supporters. He loved me unconditionally, was always happy to see me, and believed that I could do no wrong. He thought I was beautiful even on my ugliest days. He was not perfect and many times in his life he regretted the decisions he made; however, he was my Daddy. I love him and I miss him every day. There were many days when I would pick up the phone as if to call him just to ask him a question, or to hear him say “I love you” and then I would realize that he was no longer here.
Happy Birthday to my Dad, today. I am thinking of you and I know that you are at peace and happy where you are, but I still miss you terribly.
Until next time…