Daddy’s Girl

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lessons in the desert

he said leaving is never easy
and she walked out the door
a dust devil came for her soul
as she realized she wouldn’t see him anymore

the dreams still haunt her
what could have been and things left unsaid
did she ever really know him
or was it all in her head

the desert sun baked down on her
the day she drove away
a stronger woman for it all
but oh what a price to pay

-lehnanne 22 June 2002

I wrote that the morning after my Daddy died. I sat on the porch in Carlsbad, NM waiting for the dogs to come in for breakfast. He told me so many times that I was there to take care of his dogs. He knew he was dying and said there was nothing I could do for him that would mean as much as knowing I was taking care of the dogs. His last acts were of kindness, and his last words were of gratitude.

What I saw, in the beginning, was a hardened soldier. What I came to realize was he was one of the soft-hearted people I would ever know. He was the one that helped me with my homework. He was the one that taught me what I needed to know about cars and how to survive a flat tire while alone on a highway. He taught me how to care for the things and the people that were important to me.

He will always be the most important man in my childhood because he taught me that I could trust men. He showed me that men could be strong and soft at the same time. He showed me what it meant to be Daddy’s Girl.

When I was 15, I started calling him Dad instead of Tom. There was no decision to do it other than it just started. I didn’t discuss it with him. I just said, “Hey, Dad.” I had to say it twice because he didn’t realize I was talking to him. I saw tears well up in his eyes.

When I was 26, he told me that he would never forget that feeling and always be my father, my Daddy. We talked about officially adopting each other. He said it cost too much money for a piece of paper. In 2001, just before he and Mamma retired and moved back to New Mexico, I put in to change my legal name. I added GIBBS. He knew nothing about it, and I wasn’t going to tell him until it was official. Sadly, the next time I saw him after I got my new driver’s license was sitting in the hospital with Mamma just after she passed away. We were both crying, and I got my license out and slipped it into his hand. He started to sob, hugged me, and whispered – thank you.

Daddy, I have missed you every day since your last, and I will miss you until mine.