I was 6 years old. I told you I didn’t want to ride the bus. You said it wasn’t up for discussion. I begged and pleaded. I cried and pulled my hair. You were unaffected. I threw myself on the ground and vowed never to speak to you again if you made me get on that bus. And yet there we were the next morning, together at the bus stop. You made me hold your hand. I made sure my grip was limp as a noodle in case you forgot that I now hated you. When the bus pulled up, I went to the last seat and pressed my face to the window. We locked eyes. As the bus drove away, and you got smaller, my tears got bigger. Suddenly I saw you do something you had never done before. I couldn’t be sure because my vision was blurry, but in the cloud of dust the bus kicked up, I swear I saw you cry. I never did ride that bus again, and you never apologized for all my pain and suffering. But I guess in some ways you had. When I was 6 I learned something I never knew before, that dads cry too.
I was 15 years old. We had rehearsed the rules of your household a thousand times before, but tonight I would tune you out. I wanted to be taken seriously. I was not a kid anymore and you never seemed to understand that. I took 5 shots of vodka and hoped it would make me wise, but it made me a fool. I hung out with boys that were old enough, and sober enough, to know what 5 shots of vodka would do to a 15 year old girl. I could barely stand daddy. I passed out in a pool of my own vomit and woke up to my friends carrying me up your driveway. They left me there like a tiny package you weren’t expecting to have delivered. With gentle arms you collected me. You washed my face and fixed my hair. I felt like I was dying as you carried me to my twin size bed, and in the morning I wished I had. When I was 15 years old I learned something I should have known already; to be careful, because dads cry too.
I was 22 years old. I was head over heels in love and you knew it. You walked around the block with him and I hoped that he was asking for your blessing. If you’d said no I would have screamed at you. Instead, you sat us both down for months. We spent one hour a week talking with you about plans we didn’t even realize we’d needed. You wanted to know him, and you wanted to make sure I knew him too. One week you asked us to pray with you and I remember being awed by how gentle you were toward him. Every time we’d leave your house, you’d hug him and say, “she’s my baby you know.” I rolled my eyes, but he never forgot your whispers. You married us, and for the first time in my entire life I watched you stumble over your words. When he took my hand from yours I watched you take one step backward, and I can honestly say that you’ve stayed one step behind us ever since. When I was 23 years old I learned that you knew how to protect me, as much as you knew how to let me go. Your eyes welled up with tears as I danced with him to our wedding song. I felt lucky to be so loved by both of you. I have a memory of that day that’s now buried in my heart. Husbands, just like dads, both cry too.
I’m 30 now. You still look at me the same way you did when I was 6. Like I’m a princess and you’re the hero. I can’t step foot onto your property without your running to the door to let me in. Every time you carry my bags, you grab a tight hold on my heart. You always told me that I could do anything. You taught me that women were meant to be strong, and that no matter how long your gone, some places always feel like home. You taught me how to pray when you can’t even speak, and how to stand from the base of ones knees. As I watch you grow older daddy, I try harder to memorize the way your eyes light up when you see me, and the sound of your laughter bouncing off the walls. Thank you for setting the standard for what a man should be. I don’t write you poems to put on your desk anymore, or draw pictures for you to frame, but I hope you know that I love you more today than all the yesterdays before.
For 30 years I’ve felt adored by you, and I hope God gives us 30 more. I can say all of this in person, but I wanted to also write it down. It can be hard to say the things aloud that our hearts so often whisper.
Because daddy, I don’t know if you know this… but daughters cry too.
Join our Facebook page and read more great articles from The Spilled Milk Club.