I have flashes of memory.
Still images that show up and tell me a story that doesn’t have a consistent thru-line.
There’s falling asleep in your wheelbarrow in the backyard of the Old Jonesboro Road house.
Riding in the bright yellow seat as you bicycled us through Hapeville.
Painting the little red playhouse.
Doing math on the chalkboard when you got home from night school.
Sitting in that rust shag carpet while you told me stories about your day.
Visiting you at Delta and sending messages to your colleagues through the pneumatic tube system.
Flying first class in our Sunday Best and getting to eat black forest cake as a reward for being so good.
Then there’s a gap I don’t like to feel.
More images come through, but they’re cold.
Luckily, some are really warm too. Just far too few.
Skiing behind Uncle Bob’s boat on Lake Lanier.
Later, camping on your pontoon boat (falling asleep in the hammock watching the little black-and-white TV was my favorite part).
Setting up the racetrack Santa brought at the staircase in your condo so we could FLY the Tyco cars off into the air, crashing down all those stairs.
Playing piano and singing with you.
Doing plays at the Southside Theatre Guild and sleeping on your sofa because “my bedroom” never really suited me there.
Learning how to drive a stick on your beloved gold VW Bug.
Working on my first car — “The Hatchmobile” — together to get it ready for me to drive (you made me prove I could change a tire and I’m forever grateful for that).
Then another gap; one I chose and you didn’t. I don’t know if I thought it was only fair that you feel that chill or if I was just certain I knew everything at 20 (didn’t we all).
More images. Sporadic. Sweet because we’re supposed to be.
You and Susan building me a loft for my dorm room.
You co-signing for my second car — “The Mighty TicTac” — which I would continue to drive for 34 years (and counting).
You driving me and all my belongings (including my miserable cat) across the country in a U-Haul towing that hot car (and I do mean hot; we broke down in Needles at 110ºF).
My first meal as an adult in Hollywood… with you at the 101 Coffee Shop, across from my new digs, as I started my new life. I remember you asking if I’d be okay out there all by myself.
Years after that, you settling me (and my cat, less miserable now) in at grad school and asking if I wanted your gun (you really didn’t like my neighborhood and you were right about it).
Graduation ceremonies and celebrations and then back to LA I went. For good this time.
A largely transactional and transportational relationship, those years.
We became buddies in a way that was good. Healthy. Non-confrontational. I know you appreciated that last part most of all.
The times you came out to LA since I moved back were some of my favorite times. You got to see my life and you were so impressed. When I brought you to speaking engagements I was doing or the hottest restaurant in town where I was a regular… you loved these things and told me so.
Some of our most important and deep convos happened during these visits and I’ll treasure them always. You had things you wanted to know about my life that made me feel seen. You had things you needed me to know and these talks took care of so much of that. Another few of our best talks happened when I came back to Atlanta and stayed with you while in town for business. This was when we finally, really, truly got okay.
I’m told that on the day I was born, you stood at the top of the back steps of our Hapeville house and shouted, “IT’S A GIRL!” at the top of your lungs.
Last year, Susan and Aunt Jean had you sing “Daddy’s Little Girl” to me in a video that I will treasure forever.
I don’t know how many times you sang that song to me over the years but I know there’s nothing sweeter than your gorgeous voice, telling me how much you love me with music. It’s something no one else can do like you and I’m so grateful for having been on the receiving end of so much of your voice’s love.
When Charlsie passed away in 2000, I had to learn a sort of Spiritual Braille to be able to continue our conversations. Getting to know Momma in this new way has been so gratifying and delightful. Daddy, I’m really looking forward to getting to know you in this new way too. I suspect we’ll be closer than ever, and while we missed so much sharing due to the gaps we each chose in life, now we have no gaps left to close. Like I told you when you said you wanted to make things up to me, “We’re good.” I meant it and I mean it, Daddy. There is nothing to fix. You taught me so much about choosing a life that feels good.
My life feels good. You role modeled more than you know.
I love you,
“Daddy’s Little Girl”