Happy Birthday America, and thanks for the extra day off. Single Working Moms and the world alike need those. Now to the post I go.
Phylis, my step mother, passed away nine years ago last March. She had stage four brain cancer that was diagnosed late in the game in August of 2000 and quickly progressed through what little life she had left, ultimately thrusting her into full-time nursing care as she could no longer walk, talk, or barely move.
My dad and I had always been close-I was the epitomy of Daddy’s Little Girl, really, details of which are somewhat foggy in my mind now that I’m older, but certain memories remain vivid. I remember my dad getting ready for work in the morning when I was little. I remember the smell of Brut cologne. I remember getting up early with him and going into the master bathroom and climbing up on the vanity and watching him shave while he listened to KMPC, the local big-band era radio station. I remember sitting on the bar stools at our breakfast counter, while I suppose he ate a nice breakfast that my mom made, not sure if I ate something, too. I remember when I was introduced to Phylis, not long after my folks had separated-I couldn’t tell you if they were actually divorced yet or not-I was eleven years old then.
Dad and Phylis were together (off and on) for seventeen years, and they were married for about eight. What I would not have known or ever imagined, being Daddy’s Little Girl even through that relationship, was how much Phylis’ death would impact us. This post isn’t about Phylis, though. Perhaps another time it will be. This post is about Dad. Because I haven’t much been “Daddy’s Little Girl” since she died. My Dad handled his coping one way (by moving on quickly), and I handled mine another way. We both grieved horribly, but after an intense eight months as a caregiving team to this beautiful woman, we drifted apart.
And, the turbulance of my own life grew. Divorce and a few really poor decisions became the thorns in my side up until about two years ago. As I’ve rebuilt a foundation for Maycee and I and accepted all that comes with that, my dear ol’ dad has been in the wings, not on the front line. He hasn’t gone through it with me, but he’s peeked his head in to check on us here and there, sort of making sure we’re still afloat. And, it’s all been okay. It’s actually been for the best. My dad picked me up more times than I can count during my early adulthood, and I needed to go this road without him. But, to say I don’t miss the closeness we had would be only fooling everyone, most of all: me. It’s like anything one becomes accustomed to in life-if it leaves or is taken away, there’s a hole left to fill.
Dad came to visit us for the Fourth of July. Out of the blue, he called me to see if Maycee and I were going to be home for the holiday. Well, Maycee was at her dad’s in Southern Cal, but I was going to pick her up fairly early Monday morning, and then we’d be home. He asked, “Would her dad mind if I picker her up?” Wow. This is new. Hmmmmmm, let me see…..twist Maycee’s dad’s arm….he doesn’t have to drive an hour north to drop her off at the usual meet spot…hmmmmm…nope. He wouldn’t mind. So, about 11:30AM this past Monday, the Fourth of July holiday 2011, my dad arrived at the Yellow Submarine with child in tow.
For the first time maybe ever my dad spent an entire day and night with me and Maycee–on my turf. In the beginning it was like we didn’t know what to do or how to act. He hadn’t been “just Dad” and me “just daughter” for so long. No agenda, no where to go, no where to turn. Maycee ended up playing with the neighbor, so she was no help, ha. Eventually, though, the conversations started to flow, our shoulders dropped, and the air relaxed. We covered all of the ins and outs of my home repairs and upgrades, the little things that still needed done, the leaky kitchen sink faucet that he showed me how to fix myself (go girl!), car talk and when is it time for me to get a new one, Maycee’s new school, how he was taking more vacation this summer so he could work harder again in the fall to qualify for yet another Top Hatters trip (my dad has been a top insurance producer for over 37 years-at least).
Maycee went with her buddy to play next door, and Dad and I took a walk around the neighborhood to look at all the homes for sale. I showed him the really neat picnic spot Maycee and I discovered where one can eat lunch and look out at the dunes. He later took us to a Mexican Food feast for dinner at the corner restaurant, then to Walmart for a little “letmespoilthegirls” shopping, back to the Yellow Sub to watch Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black (one of my acting favs), and up the hill at 9:00PM to see four different fireworks displays shooting off over the ocean in the distance (Dad and Maycee froze, but I was loving it). We ended the evening with “scrap” hot cocoa (Maycee calls making things from scratch, “scrap”). Then Dad was up early the next morning, ready to get outa Dodge in his more typical “gottagonow” fashion.
Here’s the thing…before he left, he quietly offered to help me out a bit when I need it. His head was looking down, he almost seemed embarrassed. Discrete yet humble in his own way. He said, “Well, you’ve certainly done a lot of hard work around here. You’ve done a good job, especially considering all you went through.” I stood in my kitchen, also looking down, at the countertop, in my jammies with my hair scraggly. All I could say was, “Thanks, Dad.” Words of gold. Pure gold. More than the offer of physical assistance, more than giving me money, worth more than anything to me at that moment were those words: you’ve done a good job. I’ve heard it from my boss, I’ve heard it from friends, my mom is my biggest cheerleader, but not for many, many moons have I heard anything even close from: Dad. And, you know, it’s human nature to wonder.
We grow older. Some of us may even grow up. Life takes us places, and we choose to go places. We make mistakes and have a few successes. Win awards, maybe. Become famous, rarely. Need validation that at some level whatever we’re doing is heading us in the right direction-finally? Most definitely. And, I think that for most of us, no opinion or approval holds more weight than that of a parent (albeit hard to admit). As I raise Maycee, this is a truism I will heed. There will come a time it all returns back full circle.
What a great celebration was had this week, for America, for me, and of course, for a visit with Dad.
Life is a journey. Do it with your eyes wide open, give a chuckle, and have a terrific weekend!