Cleaning out boxes and boxes of “stuff” has more benefits than just feeling the satisfaction of throwing away junk that had no meaning whatsoever to me and was taking up entirely too much space in my house. While going through the tedious process of sifting through every scrap of paper I had ever scrawled a sentence on and every letter anyone had ever sent me, I found some treasures.
One was a letter I wrote to my daddy when I was going through a rough time. I had only been home from living in London for a couple of months, and I was feeling very lost and inadequate and guilty because I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Daddy, doing what he has always done, patiently walked with me through it. Here is part of what I wrote to him on August 8, 2001:
“Daddy, sometimes when I think about you and how much I adore everything you do, it makes my heart ache because it is so full of love for you. I love your little quirks…your naps at lunch, that you don’t want me to call during Seinfeld, that you pull quarters out from behind little boys ears, when you call me Little Bitty Marsha, your little half grin, the way you laugh when you get emotional, that you can’t get mad at us no matter how hard you try, that you have worn the same kind of ugly brown shoes for 15 years, when you say, “Guess what’s on tv?,” and it is always something I would never want to watch, that you’re not afraid to make a phone call to anyone to ask for just about anything, that you give people things they need without seeking anything in return, that you shake people’s hands and look them in the eye, that you still watch Canton Academy football like it was you on the field, the way you and Steve discuss every play of every game in any sport you’ve ever seen, that you give people nicknames, that you won’t go anywhere that is cold, that we could all be sitting in the den, not saying a word, and one of us gets up to leave and you wonder why……Sometimes I still feel like I’m 6 and your hand holding mine is so much bigger, and it feels strong and safe. And it wouldn’t matter if you had a good job or if people looked up to you or if you ever gave me anything but your time. All that matters when I’m back in that moment is that you are mine.”
11 years later, I can add to that list….
Daddy, I never thought I could love you more as my father until I saw you become a grandfather. I love watching you watch Mac. I love that you stop by our house, even if just for 5 minutes during tax season, because you haven’t seen him all day. I love that you try to help him with his golf swing and let him spend the night with y’all every time he asks and that you swing him on the tire swing and give him sips of Coke even when I tell you not to and play basketball with him and help him climb trees. I love that you wear your love for him outside of your body, and I love that you show him, in every single way you possibly can, that you are here for him, that you want to be near him, that you value him, that you think he is special. In every way I fail as a mother, you make up for my failures as his “Charles.”
Growing up, I loved sharing special things with you, like watching Hill Street Blues when you would come home from work late and listening to Stevie Nicks and the Beatles on the record player and later, in the car. I loved reading the same books as you and talking about them afterward. I loved dissecting Ole Miss football with you on Saturdays and talking about politics and knowing that no matter what job I had, you would never ask me to fill out my tax forms by myself. I love that you have always listened to my side, and that even though I’m a hot head and you aren’t, you don’t tell me not to be. I love that you still hold my mama’s hand. I love that you give me the benefit of the doubt and that you don’t tell me my feelings aren’t important and that you let me make fun of you for liking that Meat Loaf song. I love that you love my husband and are his friend and, I even love that you take his side when you actually can see his point of view (even though I won’t tell you that at the time). I love that, when I get irritated with you, I don’t ever have to worry that you will worry that it will stay that way.
Once, I was a little girl with pigtails who thought there was no man in the whole wide world as perfect as you. Today, I’m a big girl with a family and a house and a job and a car note, and now I know you aren’t perfect……but you are a perfect daddy.
I love being your daughter.