If there were a bracelet with the letters WWDD (What Would Daddy Do?), I’d still wear it in a heartbeat.
I was Daddy’s little girl. I thought everything he did, said, or ate had to be pretty doggoned good. Daddy was the one who introduced me to shrimp, watermelon, and chocolate… all on the same plate. Even brussel sprouts and stewed okra were tolerable if he doused them in Hershey’s syrup.
Yep, my daddy knew “tasty”. On our camping vacations, Mama, Daddy, and I would check into a motel room in town, on Saturday nights, and sample the fare offered at a local restaurant.
“What are you going to have, Daddy?” I’d ask, before the waitress came around.
On our camping trips, Daddy let help him pick out the snacks for the “silly box”: yummy cheeses, crackers, chips, and, of course, chocolate-chip cookies We stacked our Ritz crackers with sardines, mustard, and peanut butter , getting a kick out of watching Mama cringe.
My daddy loved pulling good-natured wool over Mama’s eyes. One day, after school, she and I walked into a house fragrant with roast chicken.
“Daddy, something smells wonderful! What is it?”
“Roadrunner,” he told her, winking at me.
“Are you serious?”
Daddy managed a poker face. That is, until he saw Mama burrow through the trash.
“What are you looking for?” he asked her, gigging me in the ribs.
To this day, every time I roast whole chickens with strips of bacon laid across their breasts, I call them roadrunners.
Besides his flair for cooking and his fun-loving spirit, Daddy was also full of common-sense wisdom. One morning, in a campsite near Aspen, Colorado, I was returning from the restroom –an outhouse –when I saw a bear nosing around in our trash cans. Although he didn’t seem to notice me, I wasn’t about to stick around until he did. Pulse pounding, I skidded up to our camper, where Mama and Daddy were sipping their morning coffee, and smacked into the door.
“Kimmie, “ Daddy laughed, “that’s the fastest we’ve ever seen you move! What’s the matter?”
Catching my breath, I pointed at the garbage cans.
“A bear! Over there!”
But the brown bear had already lumbered into someone else’s campsite.
Later, during our nightly campfire, Daddy took me aside.
“Kimmie, you were smart to stay out of that bear’s way. Always respect Mother Nature, or she’ll wallop your behind!”
Like scenes in a kaleidoscope, our vacations faded one into another. In the fall of 1965, I started to college. Along with my bags, I packed Daddy’s wisdom into my head .
“Kimmie,” he told me, before my first day at class. “Always write down everything that ol’ prof says. You never know when you’ll see it on a test.”
I took Daddy’s advice to heart. Besides for the words, I noted the arching of the professors’ eyebrows and the meaningful clearings of their throats. Not having the benefit of PowerPoint slides, then, we listened and took notes as the professors professed.
A few years later, I married and presented Mama and Daddy with grandsons. Still, Daddy shared his wisdom with Tam and Terry. He could spot a phony Western at fifty paces. My boys, cowboy hats on heads, would sprawl out in the floor and watch Gunsmoke re-runs with their grand-dad, who loved to point out inconsistencies in the “sissy” cowboys. Soon, my sons, eyes peeled, found bloopers to point out to him.
“That’s a fake, Grand-dad,” Tam or Terry would announce, pointing to the way a cowboy spoke or wore his hat.
As long as Daddy was alive, he was there for me when I was sick. When I wound up in the hospital, soon after his death, the realization that he was gone hit me when I didn’t hear the pop of his steel brace on his way to my room. I knew that ,if at all possible, he would be there. Turns out, he was. He was, and always would be, alive in my heart.
Scarcely two months after Daddy had passed away, I, warmed by his smile, wrote the following poem:
IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW
Expectantly, you, a father-to-be,
perched on the edge of your front-row seat,
ears peeled for my opening wail
in the overture of Life.
After my premiere, you – face beaming –
announced to my mother,
“We have a little movie star!”
Together, you gave my debut
Years passed – and so did you –
But not until some nameless nemesis
in my audience
made me forget my lines.
Only after you left did Someone give him a name:
Tonight, that heckler will be bounced off my brain
and I will begin my comeback
to this Silver Screen.
And, once more, sitting in your front-row seat
within the same hospital walls,
will be my fondest fan:
with your steady smile and twinkling, blue eyes,
as I give the performance
of a lifetime.
Oh, if only you could see me now!
** Kim Kathleen Terry **