Dad

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I’m a single mother now.  This is new for me.  Sort of.  I was prepared.  I knew it was coming.  Even still,  I sit here,  exhausted. 

Three kids,  one woman,  and my 66 year old father.  We live in a trailer.  I’ve recently applied for food stamps.  I’ve been a stay at home mom for 10 years so the job hunt isn’t really panning out at the moment.  I’ve even applied for fast food and chain mega stores.  No word. 

We won’t starve due to the generosity of my daddy,  my hero.  We won’t be homeless either because of his kind heart.   But,  he’s not responsible for these kids.  I am.  I feel like a leech with three baby leeches attached to me just SUCKING EVERY BIT OF LIFE OUT OF THE OLD MAN’S BONES.  Christ. 

I have an abundance of faith helping me sleep at night and my father shares the same virtue so he walks around sharing the same smile I wear.  Which is nice. I just can’t help but wonder when I see him mowing my lawn,  when will he get his day of rest?  

He loves helping us.  He was born to serve.  A United States Marine in his teens and a dedicated father throughout my life.  He’s amazing.  It’s his birthday tomorrow.  I have nothing to give him.  He won’t expect anything but I feel bad,  nonetheless. 

When I’m exhausted it’s become a tendency of mine to focus on the plight of others because sometimes I’m just too tired to be optimistic and focus on the good stuff. Its everywhere.  It’s easy to see.  It’s all around me literally screaming in my face but when my wretched soul gets weary,  I have a difficult time focusing on it.  It’s just easier to look at the struggles of others and feel grateful in that sense while doing whatever I can to help them rise as altruism is a state of mind most fulfilling.

And my father,  he’s the closest.  The nearest and dearest. Someone who has sacraficed great things and has basically been forced out of retirement to help myself and my children survive.  He’d never complain.  He doesn’t show any sign of pain.  Much of the empathy I’ve felt for him is based on what I would feel in his situation and have surmised.

The thing most unfair for him in this situation isn’t in the work,  physical labor,  or financial worry.  He has watched his daughter suffer,  too long,  too great.  As a parent myself,  I can tell you that sh** hurts.   I would do,  and have done, incredibly painful things to make sure my children won’t suffer but,  sometimes we’re helpless in the struggle to keep our kids safe.  Sometimes,  they’re in God’s hands and it hurts like hell to turn over that control.  To allow an angel to guide and guard them.  To let the Creator form and mold them through pain.  It hurts.  It hurts like hellfire. 

My entire family feels helpless.  They’re so far away.  Here I am,  fighting for my life, and they can’t reach me.  But,  I believe I was meant to do this mostly on my own.  I have had tremendous help and support.  We’d be homeless and hungry without my father.  But,  for the most part,  this fight is mine to wage.  I’m not alone in it.  The back up and support I’ve received has been life saving and some of it has rained down from God Himself.

Tomorrow is my Father’s birthday.   I have nothing material to give him.  So instead of material nonsense,  I’ve decided to gift him with words.  They’re all I have to offer,  as usual.

I have always been a daddy’s girl and a tomboy.  I followed him around the garage with eager ears as a child.  He taught me to fix things,  properly,  to last   and to be reliable.  Most of all,  he made me laugh. That has been an invaluable gift for me throughout my life,  as I often found it difficult to smile from the inside.  

If I had a question,  and I had many,  he always had an answer.  Sometimes he made the answers up entirely,  as I discovered when I learned to read,  but with his willingness to be ready with these responses,  often humorous,  he showed an attentiveness and interest in my learning that created this knowledge thirsty beast I’ve always been. He never shushed me or turned me away,  he always answered.  He always answered with a proud smile. 

He worked hard everyday and he did it for us and refused to carry stress into our home.  He didn’t have the heart to punish me,  rarely ever raised his voice.  He was wrapped around his girl’s little fingers and he didn’t care who knew.  

He loved my mother,  with all his heart.  For a little girl,  that’s an important thing to see. He treated that amazing woman like the queen she was,  every day,  every way,  until the day she died,  he never left her side.  He made it damn near impossible for my sister and I to find any man good enough for us as he treated us all so well.   But,  he also taught us that we didn’t need to go looking because within ourselves we would find everything we would ever need. 

As a child,  his life story amazed me.  I couldn’t believe anyone could be that good and that strong.  To briefly sum things up,  as if I’m any good at that,  he’s a total badass with a soft heart and selfless nature.

He left his family when he was 15.  Never graduated high school,  dropping out in the 9th grade,  but he had to take the military intelligence test twice because he had such a high score that they thought he had cheated.  He enlisted in the Marine Corps as a minor and went to Vietnam as soon as they could send him.  He stayed for over 2 years in that jungle.   He hasn’t said much about his time there.  The veterans of that war rarely do.  He came home to cruelty and dishonorable treatment, but he still went where directed as an honorable man does,  battling forrest fires with his fellow soldiers.   They were the only cats crazy enough to drive into the flames.  Thank God for brave men like my father.

He had some wild years then.  Some turbulent ones.  I understand it all too completely.  And his understanding of my trying times was something that kept me alive.  There was real empathy there,  between him and I,  and it was the only thing that made me feel I wasn’t alone.  It kept me from giving up when he’d tell me,  “You’re strong and you’ll make it through this.” I KNEW he knew.  I KNEW he felt it.  I KNEW he meant what he said and even though he had to say it hundreds of times,  those words, from him, never lost their meaning.  His words saved my life,  many times.

He has always been present.  He has always been kind.  He has been my biggest fan and comedian during very dark times.  He’s come to my rescue every time that I’ve called,  even if the best thing to do was to make me suffer my own consequences.   He had, and still has, the strength to let me fall and the intelligence and knowledge to know just when to step in. 

He’s my hero and the only real hero I’ll ever have because,  to this little girl,  he has been and will always be, the picture of exactly what a man should be.  He’s been treated poorly so many times but he refuses to be unkind.  He has had to endure incredible suffering but he still laughs from his belly and makes sure others smile.  He’s cooked my meals and tucked me in without shame or any fear that these acts would damage his masculinity.  He made sure we knew that a man’s measure isn’t in muscles,  bank statements,  or power.  His ability to love and protect the lives he’s been charged with caring for is what really matters in the end.  My Daddy,  well I measure his ability to do this in the way his daughters and wife love him in return.   

Love ya Dad.  You’re my hero.  The words “thank you” can’t express what I feel.  You’ve saved many lives while you’ve lived your own with integrity and decency and you saved mine a hundred times with your kindness,  encouragemnt,  unfailing love,  and clear example of exactly what a person should be.

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