Maybe

I never thought I’d ever have the chance to say “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY” to my Dad. Until 8 months ago, he didn’t even know I existed. Finally, 51 Father’s Days later, I will get my chance. Even though Hollywood could never have written a happier ending, initially, I was pretty sure that this was too good to be true and you know what they say. While I braced my heart 24/7 for the eventual freefall, weeks and then months passed and it never came. When fear of the expected rejection consumed me like a tsunami, each time, Dad loved me through my crazy and told me, “It’ll be ok, Beck” and then, magically, somehow it was. He was still there.

He. is. still. there!

Over time, I saw that his actions were consistent with his words. His open hands welcomed me not only into his home, but his life – and not only me. He welcomed my family into his life as well – my husband and our 7 kids. Dad has made us feel totally at home among my new, precious family of strangers.

When I reflect on how my Dad’s open heart and hands have responded to me over these last few months, I try to imagine how they might have responded to me throughout my childhood and beyond. Given the reality of missing 50 Father’s Days, sometimes I wonder what my life would’ve looked like with him in it. I hit rewind and play a new version of my movie – the one with my Dad.

Because he was never given the opportunity to even know about my existence, it’s hard to imagine how I would’ve eventually come to enter his world. He left for the navy before I was born, but said that if he’d known about me maybe his family would’ve helped take care of me until he returned. Perhaps, his 18-yr. old heart and hands would’ve been open to receive me into his life even though it wouldn’t have been easy or convenient. Maybe the same hands that warmly welcomed me at his front door 8 months ago would’ve been willing to welcome a pink bundle into his young, navy-boy world fifty years ago?

Maybe, those same strong, sailor hands would’ve helped sticky, little hands hold dripping ice cream cones, stuck band-aids on skinned knees from bicycle crashes, buckled squeaky, shiney shoes on Sundays, and brushed tangles out of a squirmy little girl’s hair. Maybe his hand would’ve held tight to the little hand reaching up for help to make it to the top of the slide. Maybe he would’ve slid down too – with me on his lap and a smile on my face.

Maybe, his hands would’ve showed me how to properly hold a baseball bat, showing me just the right distance for my hands to be apart, where they should be placed and how to swing level. Years later, maybe I hit one of those low and outside pitches and knocked it to the fence, rounded 3rd and pounded home plate a half-second before I heard the “smack” of the ball hit the catcher’s glove. Maybe, I listened and above everything else heard Dad hollering crazy loud for me – just like he did many times at the umpire. Maybe, I couldn’t hide that smile.

Maybe, when I told Dad that I was invited to a party at the lake on Friday night, he said that I couldn’t go. After an eye-ball rolling, teenaged-daughter tantrum, maybe Dad’s hand pointed me in the direction of my bedroom that had now become my jail cell. On Monday, at school, when I heard about the party and all that happened, maybe I was secretly thankful that my Daddy said, “no.”

Years later, when a boy finally scraped up enough courage to come to the house, maybe Dad’s strong hand would’ve given him a proper Texas handshake along with a few words … actually, more than a few most likely. Maybe, my Daddy told him that he better get me home before curfew or he’d be waiting for him in the middle of the street. Then, maybe I would’ve said, “Don’t worry, Daddy, he’s the only boy in five counties brave enough to come home to meet you.”

Maybe, his hands would’ve proudly snapped photos of me in my cap and gown as I crossed the stage and clapped for me as I received my diploma. Maybe now, in this moment, my Dad understood that 18 years goes by in a flash and maybe he knew in his heart that the handsome sailor boy who came home a man, would do it all over again. Maybe, he was proud that I wore the gold cord that day. I would’ve been over the moon for the chance to make him proud.

Maybe, as melon season began to wind down, the days grew shorter and the locust song was on, his strong hands would’ve helped me load up my belongings in the back of the truck headed to college. As he helped me secure and tie everything down, maybe he would’ve asked with an ornery grin, “Do you really need all this stuff?”, making me laugh. He always knew when I needed to laugh. As we finally finished, maybe as he shut my door, he reminded me to watch the gas gauge and made me promise to be careful before he watched me roll out of the drive. Maybe, his hand had a hard time waving. Maybe, he wanted me to turn around. Maybe, me too….

Over the following months, maybe he would call for no reason or to make sure I was studying hard and making A’s. Sometimes, maybe I’d be stressed over difficult classes and piles of papers to write and cry. Maybe, my Daddy said, “It’ll be ok, Beck” and then magically, somehow it was. Maybe, the long pauses after awhile meant it was hard to say goodbye. Breaking the silence, maybe, I swallowed hard and said, “Tomato planting time isn’t too far off and summer’s right around the corner, Daddy!” Maybe, I couldn’t wait to get home to work in the garden with him – always my favorite part of summer.

Maybe, those times when I’d show up unannounced, I didn’t have to say anything – he just knew. Daddy knew that I needed to feel at home again, wear my faded t-shirt, cut-offs and ball cap. Maybe, he knew I needed to go for a drive, just the two of us, on dirt roads with stories to tell, past grazing Angus and cotton fields. He knew it was these stories that brought me home. It was the place I knew and the place I was known. Maybe, we’d drive til dark or park in the pasture til my words ran out. Then finally, with that ornery look in his eyes, maybe my Daddy would’ve said, “Let’s get back to the house and roll some dice! I sure hope you’ve been practicin’, girl!”

Game on!

On that magical day when dressed in white, holding onto my Daddy’s arm, maybe “Butterfly Kisses” began to play for our moment on the floor. And just like all little girls, maybe, I remembered how my Daddy was my first dance partner and my first love. At that moment, I knew I could never have made up a better Daddy. Maybe, he remembered the little blondie twirling around in her Cinderella dress and cowboy boots, with bright, ruby lips persistently pleading, “Daddy, dance with me!” And he always did – just like he was now. As we danced through the lyrics, maybe his hand wiped tears from my face because he knew as each one fell, a part of me did too. At that moment, maybe he would’ve said through watery blue eyes, “You sure are a beautiful bride but you’ll always be my little girl.”

Maybe, holding onto my groom’s hand, we ran through flying rice, cheering family and friends to reach our get-away car, secretly decorated with mountains of shaving cream and soda cans tied to the bumper. Once inside, maybe I would’ve looked out the window to see that Daddy’s hand didn’t wave but I could see the look in his eyes that are just like mine. He remembered that goodbyes always make me cry, so maybe as he watched us pull away, he reached into his jacket and slowly revealed the hidden evidence – a red and white can of shaving cream, sending me off with a big, ornery smile rather than a goodbye. Maybe, his breaking heart was full.

And a half-dozen years later, maybe he would’ve smiled again as I placed his grandson into the same loving hands that warmly welcomed the pink bundle years before. Maybe, I would’ve wiped a tear from his face. And now, maybe for the first time ever, I understood how much he loved me all those years – that crazy jump-in-front-of-a-train-for-ya kind of love. The love that welcomes unexpected pink bundles, holds sticky hands, buckles shiney, Sunday shoes, bandages skinned knees, slides down the slide “just one more time” again and again, never misses a ball game, waits up late for a daughter to get home, lets an eye-ball rolling teenage daughter live, watches a daughter drive away, calls for no reason, listens to a daughter til she runs out of words and no matter how old she gets, it never, ever lets her forget she’s “Daddy’s little girl.”

Then, proudly watching him hold my precious, blue bundle, maybe – just maybe I said, “I love you so much, Daddy, and there will never be a day that I won’t want to be your little girl … even when I’m 50 yrs. old.”

4 thoughts on “Maybe

  1. Beautiful, Becky!! Made me miss my daddy!!! Wish he was still here!! So happy for you that you finally got to meet yours!!!! Thanks for sharing from your heart!! Love ya!

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  2. I love it. I loved how you opened your heart. I loved how you can have a relationship with your father in the present time but also mourn the time you lost with him and what could have been. Keep writing

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    1. Thank you, Nancy 🙂 There’s absolutely so much to be thankful for yet grief and loss were unexpected in light of a pretty perfect reunion scenario. I have to write to maintain my sanity lol .: hopeful others along the same journey can benefit from my ramblings 🙂

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