Complex, Daddy

"It's a girl." The nurse had said, handing me the most beautiful red screaming loaf I'd ever seen. With little flailing arms and a neck that would flop if I didn't support it just so. She didn't weigh more than a dictionary (or so it felt), screaming in my arms and yet I never wanted to let her go, even to give to her mom.

I remember the first time she smiled, she smiled at me. She just beamed, toothless and pink, and I knew she had no idea what a perfect expression she was making, but she was happy and could portray that—at last.

On her first day of Kindergarten she cried, so I cried. The teacher comforted her, then I hugged her and left. I cried on the drive to work. But when I came home after work she ran and hugged me and smiled and said she had had the best day at Kindergarten. She told me about it for two hours, and then I cried.

I remember the day my wife, her mother, died. She was in fourth grade, I dropped her off and my wife picked her up, since our work schedules were molded around her. But my wife didn't make it to the school, I got a call from them a half hour after school had gotten out saying I needed to pick her up, and immediately panicked. Not too long after that we found out about the car crash, my wife was in critical condition. Once we got to the hospital though, my wife was gone. She herself to sleep that night and I couldn't even ask her to go to school the next day. After that I cherished her even more, she was the only miracle left in my life.

When she started Junior High she brought this boy to the car one day and said they were dating. In a month she came to the car crying, because they weren't anymore. I held her and told her there were better guys in the world. Then she smiled up at me, and I remembered when she first smiled.

I remember her fifth boyfriend, a boy she brought not up to the car, but invited over for dinner one night. She spent the Saturday afternoon in the kitchen making dinner just right, then cleaned up perfect just in time for his arrival. While we ate and talked about things from school and his job and those sorts of things, I realized how happy my little girl was. It was her junior year of high school, but I had a feeling it was the start of the rest of her life.

She moved out to move in with him while they went through college. They pinched pennies and bought on sale and both worked, and I was both proud and a little sad that my little angel was on her own and doing fine. Every once in awhile they would visit me for lunch or dinner or breakfast or tea time, and each time I had to make sure not to cry or tell her how much I missed her. I just said I was doing fine, thinking about getting a cat or a dog.

Then she graduated, I still display the photo of her and her man in their caps and gowns and diplomas proudly over my mantle. Whenever someone is in my house for the first time, or they've come to visit after a long time away, I take them to the den and say 'look at my little girl, with her big smile and her college diploma'. She says it's embarrassing to this day, but I say it's just me being proud of her, and on some level it's meant to be embarrassing.

One day she came to me with a rock on her finger and a smile from ear to ear and said 'look Daddy, he proposed!', and I beamed back at her, hugged her tight and cried. She laughed at me and hugged me back, saying it was okay and that she was still my little girl. At the reception of her wedding I pulled the groom aside and told him straight out that I loved this angel, and though I knew I'd have to give her away and yes I had even hoped she'd find true love, I still loved her. He smiled at me and said in reply 'I'm so happy when I'm with your daughter, all I have to say is that I'm so glad you raised her the way you did and kept her your number one kid, because I love her just the way she is', and I knew she was in good hands.

My toast to them at the reception went something like 'we're here to see my little girl and this fine young man get hitched by the word of the law. But these two have been hitched mentally for a lot longer than that paper's been signed. Since the miracle of this little girl looked up at me years ago I've known she'd one day find someone not unlike this gentleman beside her, and I was honestly ready to pummel him. But time must go on and now that we're here, I think I'll go ahead and let fate run it's course'.

We don't forget our children, even if we get the worst case of old the doctor's ever seen, our children are still on our mind. If she had become a punk rock lesbian I'd still think of her as my little girl, my angel. If she rebelled and hated me, I'd still consider her my most precious, a miracle that reached my heart, soul, my life.

When she had her first child, I held her hand for nine hours in the emergency room. Her husband cried, she cried, I cried, her in-laws cried, the nurse cried. It was a boy, and when I saw the expression on her husband's face when he looked at the screaming red loaf in his arms, I knew he'd be a loving dad. She cried and held the baby boy to her chest, saying things like 'he's beautiful' and 'a miracle'. I knew even if he grew to be a punk rock wannabe, a rebellious parent-hater, a homosexual, a man who likes women's clothing or just a loving little boy, he'd be loved and cherished.

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Is this a true story? I hope so. I hope there's a father somewhere, who is like this, maybe it wasn't quite like this, but the feeling is the same. I hope for that, because that's something I like to hope about. Is it my dad? Is it my future? Is it anything or anyone who will ever dab in my life—I don't know, maybe I'll never know, but I do hope, I hope some dad, somewhere, is loving their child or children like this. Purely as his little miracle.