Over the years you have taught me so many lessons in so many ways. Most happened while we just spent time together, some from hearing of your own experiences, some came from your sage advice and others from some embarrassing moments. All of them, though, have influenced my life. I find myself trying to recreate some of those memories with my own kids, I can’t wait to tell them stories about myself as a child, sometimes I scare myself when I sound just like you and I giggle to myself when I think of how my kids will roll their eyes at me someday.
One of my first distinct memories is following you down the driveway. I remember staring at my bright blue shoes with the yellow stripes on the sides as I followed your footsteps. No doubt we were on our way to the garage to work in the shop. Sitting in the sawdust with a pile of nails, a hammer and a scrap 2x4 taught me the value of working with my own two hands. The play house and sea-saw you made us taught me that homemade toys are just as good as store bought, probably better. The notorious incident when I tried to jump to you off the porch and foolishly stuck my feet out into your stomach taught me that cement porches are really hard and that butterfly bandages and a French braid are a good fix for scalp wounds. I remember hiding behind the front door to surprise you when you came home from work. Although I’m pretty sure you knew I was there (top to bottom windows and sheer curtains don’t hide much) you feigned shock every time. You taught me the importance of humoring your children. I still remember going shopping for my first compact of blush and my Hot Miss Daisy bike. I learned you could see my future better than I could; someday I would grow up and wear makeup and someday I would ride a two-wheeler. After you punished me for the crimes of drawing on the wall and lying about it, you showed me how to ask for forgiveness when new evidence came to light, namely Victor’s confession. You taught me that God is a god of second chances when we sat listening to Benny Hester’s record and you passionately sang along to When God Ran. I remember the retractable colored pencils you gave me before you left to take the job in Fresno and how I cried at school when someone broke one. I learned gifts are more than gifts when there is sentimental value in them. I remember the night Uncle Craig told us that Alan Jeli was killed in a car accident. I learned that daddies cry too. I can still remember listening to you read the poem you wrote for Alan’s funeral, it was then that I learned that “stepping stones lead down paths unknown” and that they can “give us bumps and bruises” and putting my pen to the paper is a wonderful salve. When we heard that Clarice was killed that same year I remember sitting on your lap in the entry way and crying on your chest. Years later I watched you hold Shauna after her sister was murdered. You held her just like you held me and let her cry on your chest as if she were your very own little girl.
I remember lying on the living room floor with you, practicing my handwriting and crying because you wanted me to do it again, neatly. I definitely learned that “El flojo trabajo doble” (The lazy man works twice). I remember you coming in from the garage and asking Mom if she had seen your pencil. We giggled when we saw you had one behind each ear. No doubt you needed them so you could “Measure twice and cut once”. I can’t count the number of times you spotted me on a back-hand spring and if I ever made an excuse for why I couldn’t do it, you were quick to warn me that “Excuses are like armpits and feet, everybody has them and they all stink!” When you found out I had decided not to take the entrance exam for honors English and later the AP test for Government you promptly called the teachers in each case. After short discussions with both of them you told me not to sell myself short and take them. It was good advice. Those 2 tests enabled me to graduate high school with 9 units of college credit. Pretty much, when it came down to it, I just needed to “Stop being a knucklehead” and “Fly right”!
As a dad you taught me all of these things and so many more. But one of the most valuable lessons I learned was on my wedding day. I’ll never forget the way you hugged me before you walked me down the aisle. You cried and said you were going to miss me so much. I ‘m sorry I tried to minimize your statement by saying I wasn’t moving out of town and that you would still see me all the time, I was trying to keep my make-up from running. But I knew exactly what you meant because you taught me that there is nothing like being daddy’s little girl.