I still sit in his lap . I’m 35 years old, But I crawl in his recliner with him when he sits at the house and he wraps his big ole arm around me and holds me still. I am still his baby. Some one once told him , “She’s too big to be doin’ that.” And he said, “No she ain’t. She’ll NEVER be TOO BIG. I’ll hold her like that as long as she wants to sit there.” He had three girls before me, and wanted a boy I’m sure, but got me instead. So I followed him everywhere. I didn’t know I wasn’t THE boy. I wore the jeans, and the welder’s hat just like Daddy. I toted his tools, and set on the stool at the parts store and talked “shop” with the “guys” even though my feet wouldn’t even touch the floor. I was tearing into transmissions and motors and knew and could name practically every vintage automobile by model and year by the time I was 10. A LOT of people thought my dad HAD three daughters and one SON. My sister next above me was HORRIFIED. (She was the epitome of girlyness.)Daddy took me hunting practically before I could walk, in a little green sleeping bag and laid me beside him next to a pine tree so big around it seemed as if you could have built a house from it. I learned the smell the forest, steeped into my tiny hands until the fragrance of it and Daddy and I seemed like one thing. I learned to lay so still that the creatures of the woods would crawl across my fingers . My Daddy was the strongest , smartest , kindest , toughest man in the whole wide world. He taught me everything I ever knew about how to be a girl without even knowing it, because the whole time we weren’t doing girly things. How to stand up for myself , I was just a little ole bitty scrap of a thing, didn’t even weigh 80 pounds soaking wet, but I punched a guy twice my size in the nose for bullying me, just because my Daddy said “You never start anything, but you can SURE FINISH IT.” I never realized at the time we were growing up that we didn’t have a lot of money , because Daddy worked SO incredibly hard to make sure that on every birthday we got at least one gift that we desperately wanted. A bike, A Barbie for my sister, a real live Pony! , THE ATARI when it came out, hours and hours and hours I know now, that he put in at that hated “nut factory” he called it. Oh , Daddy! What ungrateful monsters we were! Today is your birthday , and all I can say is this letter is just words, only words. Tears to pour on a page. YOUR HANDS show the LOVE. YOUR BODY the SCARS. I love you so very much. And I don’t care who sees, who knows, who thinks, if I am silly, you are mine. I have never been prouder to call a man my Daddy . EVER. Happy Birthday, from your JayBird
He moves a little slower now. But hard work will do that to a man. His joints creak now when he gets out of our double bed. But he has sinew on his arms, like rope stretched round an old post many times over. Losing none of its strength simply looking a little more worn. Hands that I’ve seen lift a 100 pound sack of feed as if it were a plaything, and yet wet a cloth to wash my face while I’m ill with the delicate ease of a doctor. You see the cowboy stars on television who perform seeming impossible shots with their western rifles. I’ve seen him fire a bullet hole in a bullet hole from a place so far away I couldn’t even see the cross mark. A man we know carries the target in his wallet , that my husband once shot as proof that he knows a man who can shoot ” a hole into a hole.” I’ve dreamed a dream up in my mind and said , ” If I wanted a shelf that looked like this and went here in this space, would you build it for me?” . And out of spare wood from the yard, and his pure imagination , he can build it, and stain it and make it a work of art. His boys think he is the strongest, tallest , smartest, best Daddy in the world. And why not? He’s taught them how to catch a fish with just a string, a hook, and a worm. How to walk tall in a world full of people who tell them differently. They know how to shake hands with a man when saying hello, and how to open a door for a lady. He’s taught them how to skip rocks, crack a Bible, kneel in prayer, and if need be, how to throw a punch. He’s told them you always love your Lord, your Momma, and your neighbor, and IN that order. I first laid eyes on him when I was 16, and told my friend, I’m gonna’ marry that man, and I did. He has been my light on some very, very dark nights, given me two amazing children, been my laughter when I am down, my lover, my strength on some days when I thought I didn’t want to go on anymore, and always, always, my BEST FRIEND. Today he is 48 , and I love him more now than I did that September day when I first saw him across the churchyard. Happy birthday babe, you are my everything.