I was a daddy's girl, but I called him Dad. Many of my earliest memories are of my Dad. He took me with him to the woods, fishing, "hunting" although he never killed anything in front of me after the turtle incident when I was two. We were fishing and he caught a turtle and killed it. I freaked. He fished and hunted for our protein, but I was not having turtle, even at two, believe me. I was 4 or 5 before I figured out that the squirrel and rabbit we ate was the same as the ones running around outside. (duh). I stopped eating them then. I never ate deer. I think he only brought it home once and that was only part of one that he was sharing with a relative. Anyway, after the turtle, he did target practice when we went out, but mostly when we went tramping around the woods he was teaching me how to be quiet, how to identify plants (poison ivy, edibles), how to find my way back home, how to track animals. He also taught me how to shoot when I was about 6, and made me a sawed off .22 when I was 7 -- the year he died of a heart attack.
When I was 4, Dad taught me to read and tell time. Reading was the greatest gift, and he had infinite patience. I sat on his lap going "what's that word, Dad?" and "what's that word?" until I knew all the words. Then he, Mom and I sat and read together every evening until bedtime. Dad always tucked me in and sang to me as long as I can remember, until he died. He also used to ask me if I would always be daddy's little girl and if I would always sit on his lap. I would say yes, and he would say "even when you're 14?" And I would say yes. We never had the chance to test that promise.
Dad wanted a boy, but he got me. There had been a boy before me, but he died before he was a full 24 hours old. So, he had to make do with a girl. I would never have guessed that I was second choice. Not when I was little. If he had lived until I was a teen, things would probably have got tense. He didn't, so I continued to idolize him.
Dad has been gone a very long time now. I still miss him. I have come to see that he had his flaws, as we all do. I think he did his best to save me from my mom and that's why he took me with him to the woods, to his work when he could. I wonder whether he was happy with my mom, or whether he stayed with her for the sake of me and my sister (she was still a toddler when he died). Whatever the reason, I'm glad he was there to the end. My heart broke the day he died. I prayed on my knees every night for two years to be taken so I could be with him. That didn't happen, obviously.
Here's to you, Dad. You were the best. If reincarnaton does exist, I hope to see you in the next life.
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