My Daddy died 3 years ago this month.

I miss him. So much. He was handsome to the day he died, and when he was younger he looked like Ricky Ricardo-tall, dark and handsome.  At age four, I thought I was going to marry him and was upset to learn that evidently my mother was not going to bow out gracefully after all. Rude!

Daddy was smart, self-taught and sharp as a tack. Nothing got by him. A man of few words, he would rather shoot his own foot before he tooted his own horn. If he said he was going to do something, you could count on it. He was the king of frugality, but quietly generous. He had a dry wit that kept us laughing, a black belt in mischievous aggravation, and as for his chili-it was a masterpiece.

My daddy could beat up your daddy.

My husband has put up with a lot of “my Daddy would have…” or “my Dad said…”. He puts up with it gracefully. One of the things I love most about Frank is that he never spoke a negative word about my father.

Frank’s a smart man, too.

Daddy wasn’t a teddy bear kind of dad, although his granddaughters did have him wrapped around their little fingers. But he was always there when you needed him.

I had a bad car accident while in college. Even in my dazed state, seeing him running across the intersection towards me, I remember wondering how he got there so fast.

On my wedding day, after the doors to the sanctuary were closed, it was just me and Daddy in the narthex of the church, waiting to go down the aisle. Standing there, my arm in his, he says, “Donna Gayle, if you’re not sure, just say the word and you and I will walk right out this door and not have to explain anything to anybody”. Those words a huge gift to me because I was terrified. He was giving me permission to forget about all the wedding preparations, money spent, and expectations of others. Permission to make my decision for the right reasons and pledging his unwavering support.

Almost a decade later, I found Nani in the middle of the night near death after an extended seizure. My mother came to watch our other girls. I rode in the ambulance, Frank followed in the car. Hearing the driver radio the hospital that we were coming in lights and sirens was surreal. I knew things could go either way and very quickly. The first time I left Nani’s ER bay and went to the waiting room, I saw my Dad and my brother. It was such a comfort. Taking breaks while the docs worked on her, I’d sit with him, his arm around my shoulder. We didn’t talk much. But sitting there next to him made me feel like I was going to be able to do whatever I needed to do that night, say good-bye to Nani or fight on for her.

I loved my Dad’s hands, even now when I think of him it’s the first thing I visualize. He had big, strong hands. God used those hands to teach me something I was going to need as an adult on days I refer to as “white water” days.

My family would visit a camp on the Comal River called Camp Warnecke. The main attraction there was riding a short stretch of rapids on inner tubes. Until we were old enough to manuever our own tubes my parents would take us down the rapids, usually one on one. But this particular day my father put my younger brother, Dwight, and me on separate tubes and was going to body surf behind us holding onto both tubes. I remember him telling me before we started down the rapids, “If you fall off,  just hold your breath, I’ll get Dwight, then I’ll get you.”

(Hey Dwight-he only got you first because you were such a baby…)

Guess what? Next thing I remember is flying off that tube, the current tumbling me along under water, delivering me to a slow eddy near the water’s edge. I was upright, still underwater, and slowly turning around and around. Looking up I could see the sun and sky through the water. I don’t remember fear,  just my Dad’s words in my head over and over, “Hold your breath, I’ll get Dwight, then I’ll get you.” Suddenly there it was- that huge hand plunging through the water. He had me.

I know this all must have happened in less than 30 seconds, but it was all in slow motion for me. It’s a very vivid memory- that hand coming through the water. A memory God brings to mind on white water days when my fears and emotions are tumbling me along and I’m overwhelmed, exhausted, or fearful and hopeless about what Nani’s future holds for her. My mind and spirit quiets and I wait because even though I’m still twirling in the eddy, I know HE’s coming.

My earthly Daddy taught me that.

4 Comment on “My Daddy’s Hands

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