Too many miles span, rivers divide, prairies stretch and roads cross between there and here tonight. Thoughts jumble too much to write the poetry intended... but he's never been much for fancy or refined anything. So I pour my coffee black, the way he would, in a blue speckled mug... from Mark Twain Dinette. I remind myself of one thing he's always taught me. Distance doesn't matter. Period.
When I'm seeking advice, he'll tell me to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and the outcome will probably be somewhere in between. But frankly, he's not any bigger on quantity of words than he is on sophisticated ones. While mine have a tendency to bubble over like baking soda in vinegar, he has the filters of wisdom and experience. He listens when he hears. And when I fail to listen with my heart, he knows... he cups my face in his stout hands and lifts it up until I can no longer avert my eyes... until my heart hears what a daddy needs to impart.
There is a lifetime of memories in those hands. Girls remember the hands of a daddy. They've brushed my long hair smooth, as I nearly drifted to sleep in the comfort of it. Two braids formed down my back... truly looking like the little Cherokee girl cloaked in summer bronze. They adjusted the wheel as I drove a Model T and old tractors. They sliced tart summer rhubarb with a pocket knife straight off the plant for me to crunch. They've held fast the sled's rope as we sailed down country roads and farm hills stilled by snowy blankets. They've selected his finest old-fashioned roses for a tiny toddler girl twirling in a floating white dress. They've crafted a tree swing out of a thick board and two stout ropes. They've clasped mine at grave sites and funeral homes. And ever so gingerly, they've held my newborn son's tiny fingers... his namesake... a name that carries five generations of legacy.
What do I remember most? The view from his shoulders, for one. The first time I ever went to the zoo, I remember flopping my head on top of his, my legs swinging limply from his shoulders like pendulums to his gait. I remember him saying I was his rag doll.
Too many images to count. I remember picking peaches in the back of a 1952 Chevy truck we affectionately called Dirty Sally. How he'd cook us pancakes on the grill in the summertime. Riding with him on the tractor to fetch water. His blueberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream. Fourth of July weekends. Sharing birthday celebrations. The charm bracelet given to a wide-eyed little girl. The determination in his steps and the focus on his face as he entered the fire station, responding to my call, "Dad... we had an accident." His brown, leather Bible soft and worn... opened up for me... sharing late into the night.
He's always understood both sides of this girl heart... the quest for adventure and the need of home. So he's taken me to the ski slopes, caves and open prairies. And then he brings me gifts of cast iron skillets, sewing supplies and vintage books.
He's called me Half-Pint and Squirt. Mostly, I'm just Suz.
The best thing I think he's ever said to me, was that I had a lot of his mom in me. Boys and their mamas. Girls and their daddies. That meant the world.
While he may not be big on words... he knows exactly what to say and when to say it. He quietly tucks emails into my in-box that say things like, "I love you, baby girl!" I drove away from home recently, and, to no one in particular, into cyberspace I tapped out, "I leave a piece of my heart behind." He found it almost immediately... like a needle on the northern point of a compass. As I crossed the river and watched my compass read southbound... there came the buzz of a text message. "It's only fair you leave a little piece of your heart behind. You take huge chunks with you."
So while my cheeks might be a little streaked... and these words a little blurred... those miles, and rivers and roads and prairie land? Well... it's like Daddy always says... distance doesn't matter. It's what's in your heart... and the piece of it held in safekeeping.
Love ya, Pa. Happy Father's Day,