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FIRST-PERSON: Dad called today

LEBANON, Tenn. (BP)–Every year I end up there. Standing in front of racks of Father’s Day cards and staring through dull eyes, my left eyebrow smugly cocked as I agonizingly search through row after row of saccharin messages for at least one that I can honestly say to my dad. Things like, “You’ve always been there for me” or “You made me who I am today” or even a simple “Thank you” won’t cut it. Nope. I just can’t do it. So, every year I settle for something with a sarcastic joke or, if I’m in a gracious mood, a generic “Happy Father’s Day to Someone Special.” No one gets the biting humor in that one but me.

I know. I sound like a terrible daughter, and I just may be. But my relationship with my dad isn’t something that Hallmark wants to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong. I will go through all the motions this year as always. I will buy a suitable card, sign it “Love, Lisa,” mail it, and even call him when the day arrives. But my heart will struggle through the exercise — broken, protesting and snarling like a wounded wolverine. It just isn’t fair!

My earliest memory is being bathed, neatly dressed in crisp, clean clothes and bleached-white sneakers, and running down the driveway as my daddy pulled in after work. I was so excited to see him that I tripped and scraped my knee on the concrete, but Daddy scooped me up and soon my tears had dried. He was so much fun. He made up goofy stories about the animals printed on the underside of my crib and sang silly songs that made me giggle as I threw back my little pixied head and sang my heart out. We were best friends and I knew I had a special place in his arms and in his heart. I really was the apple of his eye, Daddy’s girl. But I was very little then and that was a long time ago.

Strangely, he called me today, slightly incoherent and defensive when I tried to clarify his reason for calling. He said he had just talked to my younger sister — I’m pretty sure she had called him — and that he had decided to give me a call, too. Okay. I felt wary but decided to go with it. Because of the small strokes he has experienced (probably caused by the abuse his body has received), his once-sharp and often-acrid wit has dulled a bit. He told me he just wanted to hear my voice, surprisingly called me “sweet” at least two times, and said he loves me. I said, “I love you, too, Dad.” Wow. I even meant it. I really did.

This year might be a little different after all. I’m sure I’ll still take way too long standing in front of the card racks seeking out the perfectly honest expression of how I feel about my dad. No, still not proud or thankful or filled with admiration. But I think I may just look for one that says, “I love you.” After all, what else is there to say that can matter nearly as much?

I love you, Daddy — I honestly do. Happy Father’s Day!
Lisa Huddleston is a writer who lives with her husband Chuck, their three kids, two dogs and two cats on a farm in Middle Tennessee. She is a member of First Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn.

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  • Lisa Huddleston