Once a father has a daughter, he will need a little girl in his life as long as he lives. If his daughter grows up and leaves home and he has a granddaughter, he will be all right. If he has no granddaughter, he will sit and pine his heart out for a little girl. Like I wrote in my first book, Things That Really Matter, “Daughters are for daddies, that’s all there is to it. If you’ve got one I’d bet my life you already knew it.”
I also love my son but he will not be offended to hear me say how special my daughter, Gaye, was to me.
She was a thumb sucker. Some old fogies told me I should break her from that but it was her thumb and I decided she should enjoy it as long she needed it.
I still remember her first complete sentence. I was driving on Access Road and she was in the passenger seat with her right thumb in her mouth. With her left hand she pointed to the railroad bridge below Chickamauga Dam and said, “See the bridge over the water.” I nearly wrecked the car. Before sundown I had told every citizen of the United States that she had already spoken her first sentence. Daddies are fools for stuff like that.
We were living in Nashville when she started the first grade. She came home crying because she had always colored with her left hand and the teacher had forced her to write with her right hand. The next morning I was there to meet that teacher and did not leave until I got her assurance that my daughter could write left-handed.
In those early years, I could not wait to get home to read to her and Jeff. They loved Dr. Seuss and they loved for me to ride them on my foot and sing little fun songs. Those days remain the sweetest memories of my life.
I had a typewriter that she loved to play with. My wife was afraid she would damage it but I thought it was the best educational toy in the house and I let her have full access to it. One of the treasures in my journal is a draft board notice she typed for me: “We are sad to inform you that you have been drafted. You have to start active duty in August. We wouldn’t want to come after you. You wouldn’t want us to either. Ha ha (little laugh).” Another favorite to me was, “Dear Daddy, I love you very, very, very much. You are handsome, loyal, sweet. That’s why I love you.” Each year when I read her notes in my journal on her birthday, I am so glad I let her play with that typewriter.
When she got into her teens, I missed that precious little girl she had been. There was a great big hollow place in my heart. To make it worse, I discovered that neither of my children would ever have children. I would never have a granddaughter.
The big lonely place in my heart remained until a couple of years ago when I was visiting with friends in Decatur, Alabama. Seven-year-old Dahlia came in while I was sitting on the couch playing a guitar. She wanted to play, too, so I gave her my pick and let her pluck the strings while I made chords. She later leaned against me and went sound to sleep. Her parents said she had never warmed up to a stranger that way.
I bought her a beginning guitar DVD and subscribed to Hopscotch Magazine for her. She makes straight A’s in school. Of greater importance, she is a loving, kind person.
She just turned ten. For three years, I have had a little girl again and she’s a miracle worker. She healed that big hole in my heart.
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