In the shifting twilight of consciousness late at night, between wakefulness and sleep, and in the morning between sleep and wake again, sometimes I hear his voice speaking softly to me.
Just the sound of his measured tones someplace in the distance is comforting to me.
I don’t want to wake up, because I don’t want to leave him – or him to leave me. I clutch desperately to the tendrils of that dream, if that’s in fact what it is.
Not the man who begat me, but the one who chose me.
The man who would sacrifice his life for mine.
Not just theoretically, but in actuality – and nearly did.
His words and actions come back to me.
And visit my soul, whispering in the mist.
Just like in this photo, where, if you squint, you can see Dad standing outside the back door on the sidewalk, a shape frozen in time.
He’s always in the mists and someplace nearby, trembling on the raggedy edges of my life.
Drifting in and out like wisps of smoke.
Reaching out to me when need be.
Even all these years after he departed…
He never departed my soul.
In fact, he’s grown closer with each year of missing him.
Young people judge their self-worth by those who love them.
By the words they hear and the actions they see.
Dad never told me I couldn’t.
He knew I would probably do whatever anyway, so instead, he helped me be a safe daredevil.
As safe as a daredevil can be.
As safe as a father can keep the second daughter after the first one already died.
With each passing year, I realize with increasing clarity what a trying teenager I surely was.
How he must have struggled.
When I started drag racing on a dirt strip with my brother, mother was furious for any number of very logical reasons. She had the best of intentions, but her approach didn’t work well with me.
Dad was concerned for my safety. I knew he wished I wouldn’t race. But instead of telling me why I shouldn’t, or that I couldn’t, he made sure my seat fit correctly and my seatbelt was snug enough. No full harnesses then and the helmets were archaic by today’s standards. He made sure my equipment was in the best possible condition and crafted my rollbar himself.
He taught me to be the best driver possible.
But Dads can’t keep their daughters safe forever.
Racing wasn’t the worst of it.
Better Me Than You
A few years later, I got tangled up with someone who, in Dad’s vernacular “did me dirty.” It was worse than that though – it was downright dangerous and abusive. The kind of relationship that women often don’t escape.
I knew the day Dad brought a gun home, for me, and took me out in the field to be sure I absolutely knew how to use it, that the situation was serious as a heart attack. As a farmer’s daughter, we had used shotguns for years. This was entirely different.
That’s when Dad matter-of-factly informed me that he was going out FIRST and under absolutely no circumstances was I to set one toe outside of that house without him at night. Dad never, ever gave me ultimatums.
I could race cars, but I couldn’t go outside?
I loudly complained, for a variety of reasons, but among them, that Dad might get shot, himself. I was speaking mostly in the abstract, being more-than-a-little argumentative, not fully grasping the gravity of the situation.
The situation had already escalated to the point where my tires had been slashed, then my vehicle set ablaze. Dad bought the gun for me the day we dug bullets out of the house.
He knew what was up, even if I didn’t.
When I expressed concern that he might get shot, Dad looked up from what he was doing and said to me, “Better me than you.”
A slight pause, maybe a breath, then, “I’ve lived a long life.”
It took a minute for that to soak in…
He glanced at me, put his gun back in the inside pocket of his overalls where it lived those days, and said, very quietly and simply, “You’re worth it.”
You’re Worth It
My God. Could that man have told me he loved me any louder?
I stopped dead in my tracks.
My eyes filled with tears.
The silence was long and full of so much unsaid, and yet so meaningful.
That man, my step-father, who chose me as a young, mouthy teenager as part of a package deal when he married my mother would willingly lay down his life for me and planned to do so if I was in danger.
In my mind’s eye, I can see our two hearts being woven together, eternally.
As a naive young woman, I was heartbroken over the lost relationship with that tire-slashing, arsonist male who was shooting at our house. My family had a name for him, several actually. I just can’t repeat any of them here.
I couldn’t figure out what I had “done wrong” and why the male in question was behaving that way.
Of course, NOW, with decades of reflection and experience under my belt, I know those answers, and they have nothing at all to do with me.
But at the time, I was young and felt horribly rejected, unworthy, and cast aside.
Mom explained just how jerky the male was being, which, unfortunately, simply caused me to attempt to defend the indefensible. That upset my mother further. She saw some very ugly handwriting on the wall.
Dad and I often sat outside in the backyard together, especially when it was hot inside. And it was always hot inside when Mom was upset😊
Sitting on Dad’s metal glider and chair, cleaning vegetables that had been plucked from the garden, Dad was patiently trying to explain to me that I had other options.
You’re Worth So Much More
I wasn’t paying much attention to what Dad was actually saying. I was more focused on what I could do to change said male’s mind, “fix” him, and was busily making excuses. Then vacillating back to being angry. One might say I was pretty much an emotional mess.
Dad countered with a statement, and I replied, between tears, “Yea, Dad, I know he’s not worth it.” Of course, a minute later I’d say something completely different.
Dad paused, probably incredibly exasperated, but it never showed in his voice.
Instead, he said thoughtfully and deliberately, with the utmost love, “That’s not what I said, Bobbi. I didn’t say he wasn’t worth it. I said you’re worth so much more.”
I sat there for a minute because, at first, I didn’t understand the difference. Then, suddenly, I did.
Dad continued, “It’s not about him, it’s about you. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. You’re going to do so much more with your life. Your future is in front of you. You’re going to accomplish amazing things and change lives.”
“This isn’t the end of your life. It’s the beginning. It’s a doorway, a passage to the future. Your future is not here, but I will always be with you wherever you go.”
This morning, in the shifting twilight of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, once again, I heard your voice and saw your smile.
I love you, Dad.
Happy Father’s Day.
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