When I was born, my father told his friends I was the ugliest baby he had ever seen, and that I sounded just like a cricket. I think that must have been the moment that I became my Daddy’s little princess.
As a little girl, I remember seeing my daddy sitting at the kitchen counter, drinking his first cup of coffee every morning. Because of a broken finger that never quite healed right, every time he took a drink, his pinky finger would stick up a little bit.
When I grew up, I wanted to be just like him.
By the time I was 10 years old, I was drinking coffee during the summers at my uncle Charley’s dairy farm. Back then I needed a ton of sugar and cream to drink the stuff. Nowadays I use just a little cream, and I sweeten it with the fake stuff, but to this very day, my pinky sticks up a little, every time I take a drink of my coffee.
We have always shared a love of various farm animals. Well, except for that mean old goose that used to chase me around the yard hissing at me, and nipping me in the butt when I tried to run away.
One day I saw the goose trying to do the same thing to my daddy. He turned around and stomped his foot. Then he got right in the goose’s face and said “git on out a here now”.
I thought he was teaching me how to stand up to an old goose, but what he taught me was not to run from things, to stand up and face my fears head on. It took me many years to finally learn that lesson.
I cannot begin to count how many runts I thought I could save over the years. I had a weakness for piglets that were too small to survive with the litter. He would help me sneak them past my mama, and into the house. I would set my alarm to feed them every couple of hours.
He did this, even knowing that I could not save them all, knowing that some would die, and he would have to pick up the pieces of my broken heart, but he was teaching me not to be afraid to take a risk, to have the courage to try even when all the odds were against me.
I started working at the restaurant with my daddy, in my early teens. There were times that I thought he was tougher on me than the employees. He was tough, and he expected nothing less than the best. It was many years before I realized he was teaching me good work ethics and that anything worth doing, was worth doing well.
Growing up, one of my biggest fears in life was disappointing my daddy because I could not bear to see that look in his eyes.
When I was a senior in high school some friends and I snuck out of the house to go to a party. Before that night, I had never drunk a single drop of alcohol but apparently I was making up for lost time because before I knew it, it was noon the next day.
It was time to face my daddy.
Seeing that look in his eyes was way worse than the butt whooping I got. To top it off, he still made me go to work, sicker than a dog, and praying to the porcelain god. That was one lesson in life that I learned very quickly, because I remembered it every single day of the 30 days I spent grounded afterwards.
During that same year, it was my daddy who took me for a long walk up the hill to quietly tell me that my very best friend, Ronnie Winston, had died at the age of 17. Looking up into my daddy’s eyes, I could see his heart breaking for me as he tried to explain that there are some things in life that not even daddy can fix.
It was then that I first began to truly understand the serenity prayer, to accept the things I cannot change, to have the courage to change the things I can, and above all, to have wisdom to know the difference.
It has been 46 years since I became my daddy’s little princess, and you know what? I grew up to be just like him.
I love you daddy.