First it would begin with a huge hug and a kiss. He’d lift me with his strong arms. Sometimes his face was cold from the night air and his beard stubble scratched my face. But I never minded. Daddy was home.
Daddy worked nights and would often be gone before I returned home from school. So later, after I had gone to bed, I’d wake up. Right around midnight. And Daddy and I would have our treasure time.
He’d lift me up onto the kitchen counter. Then he’d take down a plastic cup he’d use to pour warm milk into after he’d heated it on the stove in a saucepan. Daddy would uncover the plate of food Mommy had left him on the stove. Sometimes the aluminum foil kept it warm enough. Other times, Daddy would heat his plate underneath the broiler.
We’d carry our dishes out to the living room and eat on the brown leather sofa – something Mommy would never allow. Daddy would turn on the TV and we’d watch the news and later, the Honeymooners.
After the dishes were returned to the kitchen and placed in the sink, Daddy would stretch out on the couch and I would lay on top of his round belly. Often, his stomach would make funny sounds. I laughed as I listened. He’d ask me about school and I’d tell him about mean Ms. Dean, the spelling quiz I aced, and the barbecue chips I enjoyed thanks to the quarter I’d found at the Red Market on my way home. Daddy asked about Valerie Jackson, and whether or not we were still friends, and what was new with Samantha. He knew all my friends by name and would often inquire about them.
Eventually, Daddy would fall asleep. He was always first, because he was so exhausted from work. As I lay there, Id listen to his snoring. At first the sounds were airy and light like a whistle in the far off distance. Then, it would grow stronger and louder like the growl of a bear. Eventually, the sound hypnotized me and I, too drifted off to sleep.
I didn’t need the sheets and blankets from my bed. These times with Daddy were the warmest I’d ever felt.
When I was little I used to wake up in the middle of the night. Not from a nightmare, or a need for a trip to the bathroom, or for a drink of water. But to meet my dad, in our usual spot, by the kitchen stove.
I believe in fathers and daughters. The significance of this relationship has grounded me for life. Because my father put energy and emphasis into knowing and nurturing me, I could later only accept a life partner who would continue to cherish the essence of who I am. The jewel of this to date fourteen-year union is our precious daughter, who runs to the door when Daddy’s home, and giggles when he whispers secrets meant for her ears only.
Like an echo, my story is reaffirmed when Pop-pop comes over to visit his granddaughter. It begins with a huge hug and a kiss. He lifts her into the air and carries her in his strong arms, inquiring about her play date with Gabi or sleep over with Dayna. He knows the names of all her friends, too.
I believe in fathers and daughters, and the poignancy of these relationship. These knowing, nurturing fathers envelope my daughter with their love. This powerful shield is just the armor she’ll need to soften the scrapes and scars of life.
I watch these fathers with their daughter and my heart smiles. She too, will be grounded for life.
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