I don't often write about my father except in passing. He was there, in my early life. His wishes and wants trumped all but our most basic needs. Shelter was provided by the church, including most but
not all utilities. Mama grew and canned most of our own food. Meat was usually provided by farming parishioners. We ate a lot of squirrel, rabbit, eggs, bacon, and chicken. Pork, beef and ham were holiday foods. I never ate a steak that didn't require pounding to a fare-thee-well until I was a grown woman. SOS was a staple in our home....made with one six ounce jar of chipped beef for the three of us. Daddy got most of it, Mom and I each got a sliver.
We were decently clothed more due to my Grandmother and aunts than from his paycheck. My mother's cleverness with a needle mended many an outfit made to fit one much larger than I. Purchase of a few yards of new fabric for clothing happened at the beginning of the school year and never seemed to stretch to anything new for Mama. One fall Mama and I each got a brand new store bought "Storm Coat". I think Grandma Downs saw what we had been wearing and took charge.
But I am doing what I didn't want to do. I am recalling all the things that were wrong. Let me see if I can remember....the time he took me to the YWCA Father/Daughter dance...and asked loudly if anyone could believe he was old enough to have "one that age". On a particularly bad hair day, saying as we were headed out to dinner "So, is that how the girls are wearing their hair, now?" Remarking sorrowfully to a friend, "I had hoped to raise a surgeon, but the best I can hope for is a librarian." I was doomed to be a disappointment. Curly, bushy hair, skinny, gawky, graceless figure, with no charm or gift of gab. He wanted those curls to be Shirley Temples, he wanted a daughter who danced, sang, played ball, or at least some kind of sport. I could read. Who cared. Not him.
The only praises I recall are public ones that told the world what a great guy he was. I don't remember a single bedtime story. I don't recall a single cuddle that wasn't public. Although by the time I was noticing, he was denying that he was old enough to be my father.
The only time I remember having his full and absolute approval, I was 2 or 3 years old. We were in San Antonio, TX, at an amusement park. Against mama's better judgement, Daddy took me on the roller coaster. Each time we finished a ride I begged to go again. I do not know how many times we rode, certainly three or more, before he tired of it. I did not. I wanted to go fly some more, with my daddy, holding me safe and tight and approving. There it is. That feeling. The reason I still love to ride long and fast and high. Laughing in my daddy's arms.