June 19, 2011
“Let’s have the fathers stand…and the grandfathers…and the great-grandfathers… join them.”
The church auditorium explodes with the applause of 3,000-plus pairs of hands as four generations of fathers are called among our congregation. My eyes sting from uninvited tears. After all of the fathers are honored, a video — one with a dad and his little girl flying a kite, finishes me off. Once again, I am that little girl and that daddy is you.
Only let’s change the grassy field to a Corpus Christi pier. And, instead of a kite, put a fishing rod — my first — in my nine-year-old hands.
Now, here we wait, quietly and patiently, on the private pier of Hotel Breakers. At first, I think the tentative tug on my line is only my imagination until I see my rod arc. Just as you taught me, I jerk it slightly to set the hook and reel in my first fish — a tiny Angel. It’s a toss-up as to which one of us is more excited.
Taking the rod from my trembling hands, you snip the flippety-flopping, silvery creature from the hook and toss it back into the ocean. As I watch you, my hand flies up to still my heart.
“Oh, Daddy,” I gasp, “my heart is pounding!”
Fast-forward to the Sixties: my teen years. Change the set to a campground outside Aspen, Colorado. Before bedtime, we — you, Mama, and I — sing campfire songs underneath a starry canopy, and wake up to the smells of pan-seared, freshly-caught trout, your special fried toast, and coffee served in a tin cup, before setting out for more fishing from an icy-cold, gurgling mountain stream.
Roll in another set, one in which we’re riding down the road and listening to the stereo. Soon, a familiar tune — “In The Mood” — comes on.
“Kimmie, know whose band that is?”
“Glenn Miller’s,” I answer, not missing a beat. It’s one of your favorites, so how could I forget?
You nudge my mother. Although I’m sitting in the back seat, I can hear the pride in your voice. I know your blue eyes are twinkling as the two of you nod to each other.
“How ’bout that?” you ask her, gesturing back at me. “That’s our girl…a musical genius!”
Now, almost fifty years later, here I stand, red roses in my arms, before you and Mama. As long ago as it has been since you’ve been gone, I still can’t believe I’m standing here in this cemetery looking at your grave. Kneeling at your tombstone, I place one rose apiece from each member of our family — grandchildren, granddaughters-in-love, great-grandsons and great-granddaughters, my fiance and me, and even my dear, departed dog, in the vases beside each of your graves. After sharing my latest accomplishments, as I did when you were still alive, I search for adequate words to thank you. Then, I thank God for sending the perfect Daddy who turned out to be you.