I remember in high school my momma telling me about the first time my daddy held me in his arms; she said he bundled me against him as if he was scared to break me, with his old grey cowboy hat pulled down low, and cried silently.
In this I am blessed: my father not only claimed me but has loved me every moment of my life.
That is more than some ever receive.
I have seen this man weld in ninety degree heat. I’ve held my breath more times than I can count watching him track a dozer at a steady incline onto a lowboy just to watch it crash back down with a bang that’ll rattle your jaw. His hands are capable of many things: raising up and shooting a gun, swinging a sledge to beat out a tire, hauling seventy pound fish into a boat, driving a semi, and shingling a roof. His skull is scarred from wrecks and scattered pieces of metal, a treasure map of stories marking each accident and injury. His voice carries in a room; a bass drawl with a half grin soon to follow.
When I was sixteen, I hit my first deer. There’s nothing like it. When you see this massive creature appear out of nowhere and your whole body locks up. You feel the crunch; the push of two objects crashing against each other with more momentum than you think is possible. The poor doe ended up on my windshield with my arms still firmly planted on the steering wheel and the smell of burnt rubber around us. I moved just enough to pick up my cell phone and call.
I remember watching him get out of the truck when he came to get me- headlights pointed straight toward me and his body just a shadow against them. His voice held a bit of edge when he came to the door and asked if I was alright. Where others might have heard sternness, in that edge I found the answer to the question pounding over and over in my head like a skipping record: everything was going to be alright.
He’s a force. Sturdy. Reliable. Commanding.
I am his only daughter and his mirror-image. I have the same coffee colored eyes and rounded nose. I love the taste of root beer and the smell of river water. I chew on my lip when I’m concentrating. I get chills when I hear the whistle of a pin tail.
This man has unraveled knotted necklaces, built a wall of bookshelves in my bedroom to surprise me, taught me how to use a drill, and changed my oil for almost ten years.
He can fix anything.
And this includes me.
He has soothed my broken heart with random drives down backroads in complete silence. This is the man who knows I don’t need words of comfort in my moments with him – all I need is the sound of tree frogs and the brush of millet against my ankles. He can hear a song and know I’ll like the melody. His voice over the telephone is enough to calm my raging temper or paralyzing fear. I am always drawn to him in a crowd because I love the way he tells stories: wholly confident and incredibly sure of the person he is.
I can remember as a child thinking he was infinite – a contradictory mix of light and dark. He was terrifying yet gentle. Brutally honest yet comforting. Sharp as a tack yet seized every opportunity to teach. He had a beard the color of coal with flashes of ginger and seemed to be made entirely of muscle. He was never cold, never cruel but in times he was distant. He would be so exhausted when he came in at night he barely communicated before going to sleep. Back then, I thought maybe he didn’t like me all that much but I quickly learned he only wanted to put food on the table. Looking at it from the standpoint of a twenty-five year old, he was young. God, twenty-two is so young. Him and my momma both were just struggling to survive.
Yet, he existed in such a way, the way only fathers can, that I never doubted for a second he would always save me.
And he always did. He saved me in a million ways: I was never hungry, there was always wood for the woodstove, I had shoes on my feet and a coat on my back, I had a bed of my own, and had help with school projects. He stood up for me when I needed him and remained silent when he knew I could defend myself. He has never treated me as a lesser individual because I am a woman. He has always told me I am beautiful. And when I am rewarded with one of his coveted laughs, a piece of me is still a child and rejoices in his happiness.
I suppose that’s where the ideas of both hero worship and wanting someone like him when I search for a partner comes into play. As I aged, I learned the flaws he holds, as does every human on this earth. He’s impatient when he knows he could do something better if you’d just let him. He’s aggressively driven to the point of obsessiveness when he’s focused. He works too much. He’s a smart ass. Yet, I can wholeheartedly admit, I love those things about him most.
The things that make him human.
The things that make him him.
It’s taken me this long to finally learn: he couldn’t fix half the things he does if he didn’t have imperfections marring the tissue of his own heart.
He can fix anything because he’s been broken, too.
And that still includes me.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou