Just as mothers and sons share a special bond, so too do fathers and daughters. It was that way with my Dad and me. My Dad loved to tell of coming home from work late at night when I was a baby. When he opened the door to the apartment, there I would be, standing in my baby bed, waiting for him. If he looked my way and smiled, I would grin from ear to ear and bob up and down until he would come pick me up.
He would carry me to the kitchen and hold me on his knee while he ate a bedtime snack of cereal and milk. He would give me a bite and then he would take a bite. Sometimes he would bypass me and my pouty bottom lip would stick out and I would almost start to cry. That would all straighten out when he would give me another bite. This special time we shared lasted for many months. "I felt a little sad when I came home one night and you were sound asleep in your crib," he said. After that I did not wake up at night anymore.
It was the late 1940's, and we lived in an apartment in downtown Fort Worth. The downtown was alive on Saturdays with people coming to town to shop. To give my Mom a break, she would dress me up in a frilly little dress and Daddy would take me with him and we would walk all over downtown and window shop. I was just the right size to sit in the crook of his arm and my little chubby hands would hold onto his shoulder. He bragged about how people would tell him what a pretty little girl he had.
Through the years my Dad and I had many special moments. Ours was an easy relationship. We didn't have to be doing anything special. It was special enough sharing whatever we were doing at the moment. When my Dad was younger, he would work on his automobiles. Often he would call to me to help him when he worked on the brakes. I would sit in the car and press the brake pedal whenever he would tell me to do so. To this day, when I smell brake fluid I am taken back to that time with my Dad.
As time neared for my high school senior prom, I asked a boy I had been dating to go with me. I had already purchased my dress when this boy decided he did not want to go. He gave some lame excuse about not knowing that his father had already entered him in a rodeo out of town. I knew the real reason was because he did not really want to go to the prom. I did not have strong feelings for this boy but I was still hurt by his actions and I was also upset about not going to the prom. My Dad saw me crying and asked me what had happened.
My Dad told me not to feel so bad because that boy was the loser, not me. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You shouldn't worry about boys like that. After all you're not a bad looking fence post." In his folksy way he was trying to cheer me up. I knew what he was trying to say and it made me smile. I felt better immediately but I still had that dress! I told him I would return it and give him back the money we had spent on it. He said, "Why don't you take that money and buy yourself a new outfit?" Wow. I think I'll live after all.
When I went off to college my Dad and I drifted apart somewhat as he continued with work and family and raising my younger brother, who was the only child left at home. I married and moved to Austin. My husband was attending college while I worked for the State Comptroller's Office. We lived on a shoestring budget during those years and could not afford a phone and could not afford the drive up to Fort Worth to visit our families.
My Dad called me at work shortly before Christmas and asked if we were coming home. There was no way we could afford it and our car was in such bad shape we were fearful we would end up stranded by the side of the road. He told me he had been missing me and asked if we would be able to come home if he paid for airline tickets. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be going home. I too missed him, missed my family, and missed Fort Worth.
During the next couple of years my husband and I struggled to find good paying jobs in Austin and then San Antonio. I felt a yearning to go home to my family and go home to Fort Worth. Something told me that we would be better off back at home. I called my Dad and asked if he would bring his pickup and come down to help us move. I could tell by his voice that he was as thrilled as I was.
During the intervening years my Dad and I had a close relationship but I shared my life with a couple of husbands along the way so Daddy was not the only man in my life. After his retirement and then after my mother died, I knew I would be the child that would take care of him. I moved him into an apartment near me so I could visit him often and take care of his needs.
He could sense that I was not happy in my marriage and asked if I had given any thought to leaving my husband. Of course I had but I felt very insecure about living on my own. My Dad proposed that he and I buy a house together and I could take care of him. That sounded like a wonderful plan to me. He said, "I just want you to be happy."
My Dad and I lived together for the next three years. As his health failed and his eyesight faded, he wanted me by his side more than ever. Because of his lung problems, he felt more comfortable sitting at the dining table. He would sit there for hours watching reruns of old westerns and cop shows. He would insist that I sit there with him and we would talk about each program. Interspersed in these conversations he would tell me stories about his life.
Even though I sometimes groused about sitting with him for hours, I enjoyed talking about his life and the things he had done and getting his viewpoint on many things that had happened in our family throughout the years. During the last year of his life, I met the love of my life. I was grateful that my Dad had been able to know this new man in my life and to know that even after he was gone I would be happy. As he passed away in his own bed, I was at his side. That invisible bond we shared was evident in his eyes even as he looked at me for the last time. In honor of my Dad, the following is a poem I wrote about the bond we shared.
You know how it is
To be understood
Some people say
An invisible bond…
Talked about it.
It’s just something