Memories From a Little Girl in a Plymouth Duster

We traveled home late one night down Southbound US-23. I sat next to Mom in our mustard yellow Plymouth Duster, and did my best to try and sleep. The black sky was spitting snow at the headlights while the heat vents blew warm stale air onto my face and chest. It was warm enough in the car, but I used my long winter coat as a blanket. Sis was asleep in the backseat and I envied the ease in which she could sleep just about anywhere.

I could feel the thick, hard vinyl of the mustard yellow seat as I shifted my weight and tried to drift off. The seat was anything but comfortable, but I liked riding up front with Mom.  The radio was playing low and the AM dial glowed in the dark. Mom listened to the late night news on WJR which I have to admit even at an early age, scared the heck out of me. Maybe it was the staccato rhythm of the announcers voice or the sound of the teletype and the occasional beeping that signaled the end of one segment and the beginning of another. It seemed that the news was always bad.

There was a murderer on the loose in another state that I was convinced was going to show up at our front door. There was disaster somewhere in the world and my mind would race with thoughts of could it happen here in my state, or the city I lived in. The stories of missing children, of wars in other lands, of leaders that would kill their own people. Even at the young age of eight, I felt that the world would never be safe for me. Maybe it was because my parents were divorced and my daddy wasn’t there to protect all of us, I don’t know.

Mom’s family was located on the west side of the state. When she married my father she pulled up stakes and moved away, but our homes were always pretty close to the highway. She loved my dad, but not in a traditionally romantic way. Dad wasn’t her Prince Charming, he was her best friend. He offered security and unconditional love and the escape from the abuse she had experienced her entire life. I don’t ever remember living with my dad, which is kind of sad.

Maybe the anxiety that I experienced at such an early age wouldn’t have been so devastating if Dad had been there to fight the monsters in the closet, or under the bed. Maybe he could have quelled my fears from the horrible news stories I heard on the radio and t.v., but maybe not.

After all these years of dealing with a backwards fight/flight response, I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty much how I’m wired. Therapy and a good anti-depressant/anxiety medication have made my life better, but there’s the little girl in me that still wishes for my dad. My parents’ divorce wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I’m sad it happened all the same.

Sometimes, I wish I could take the knowledge I have now, and go back to being that little girl trying to sleep on that crappy colored vinyl front seat, and tell myself not to fear life. To not fear the unknown sounds in the walls, and not fear the darkness of my bedroom, to not fear whether or not I will be liked or loved, and to not fear being alone. There are so many things in the world to fear, but there is so much more to be experienced and enjoyed.

Thoughts on my Daddy

I think my mom put it best. She said, ‘Little girls soften their daddy’s hearts.’-Paul Walker

I’ve been talking to my step mom the last couple of days. She’s a super cool lady that has been married to my Daddy for 26 years. Our conversations have made me think a lot about Dad, and how I felt about him and he about me, as I was growing up.

Daddy was a Michigan State Trooper for 27 years, and the Livingston County Sheriff for 12 years. Not a sheriff’s deputy honey, he was the sheriff. I was always so proud to be a cop’s daughter. I also was a bit wilder when I was growing up, because I was a cop’s daughter. I think that happens though. The preacher’s and the cop’s kids are always the ones you have to watch out for. I’m not sure about Sis, but I know I felt invincible about it when we were teenagers. I figured if I got into trouble, Daddy would fix it. Fortunately, I was pretty smart and I never got caught for some of my shenanigans. Plus I learned the hard way, that it was worse to get caught by your parents for the bad things that you did. Sometimes I wished the cops caught me instead of my mom or dad. It would have been so much easier to deal with.

I loved it when he let me hold a gun for the first time. It was a Glock. It didn’t have a safety. He’d just oiled and cleaned it. It was so empowering to hold something like that. I felt so incredibly bad ass. I’m sure I just looked like a blonde derp holding it though. Dad never told me much about his job. I don’t think he wanted to scare Sis and me. He did tell me that he had been shot at a couple of times. I do know that he has been in some harrowing situations throughout his law enforcement career. Even when I was a kid, I knew my Daddy was brave. I told a bully once to leave me alone or my Dad was going to arrest him. My mom got wind of what I said and sent him over to talk to the kid. First of all to tell him to leave us alone, but to also tell him that policemen are good people. My Dad has always been good people.

My Daddy reminds me a bit of Clint Eastwood, and a bit of Tommy Lee Jones. He has the driest sense of humor I’ve ever encountered in anyone. He tells terrible jokes. Groaners. Oh my God they’re horrible. He lives to tell them at family gatherings. We all laugh at the punchlines even though the jokes are just awful. He has made it a point of doing a kick ass trivia game at Christmas for all of the grand kids. He makes them work for the gift cards and gifts that he and my step mom buy them. They love it! They are all so damn smart and they love to prove that to  Grandpa and Grandma.

It’s difficult  to carry on a conversation with him sometimes. He doesn’t talk a whole lot. He says what he has to say and then he’s done. You all know me, I love to talk. So when we get together or talk on the phone, I jaw jack him. When we are face to face, he just looks at me and laughs. Shakes his head from time to time. He asked me once, do you need to take a breath? I giggled and asked, why? And he said, because you haven’t stopped talking for 20 minutes! I just grinned, and said, Dad I haven’t seen you in forever. I need to catch you up on what’s going on in our lives. He just smiled, and kept shaking his head. But he kept listening all the same.

He’s a good man. He is my rock. I know that if I ever need anything, I can call on him. He knows that he can do the same with me. And he has. When my Grandma Georgia, his mother was in hospice care, he called me. He asked me what to do. How he should handle it. He knew that I had dealt with close family members dying in my husband’s family, so he he asked for my help. It takes a good, caring man to do that. To ask for help. And I did help him. While he traveled home from his trip, Sis and I sat at our grandmother’s bedside to help her live out her final hours. That drew me so much closer to my father. It made him realize that I was a grown up. That he could count on me. In that moment, when he arrived at his mother’s side to wait with us, I knew he was proud of me.  And that I was proud of him.

He has helped me and my children. He has been a good man to many. He will continue to be. He gets me. I was always worried that he didn’t. But I know he does. He’s so proud of what Roger and I have accomplished in the last 18 months. He is so proud of my children, and the way we’ve raised them. I love my Daddy. The man that looks and acts like Dirty Harry, that shakes his head and laughs at me when I talk too much. That tells me he’s proud of me. I love him. I tell him as often as I can that I do. I hug him too. He’s not a really huggy dude, but that’s alright. I hug him anyway. It kinda loosens the man up a bit. I guess being a cop for 37 years would tend to change your demeanor. Toughen you up. I’m sure he’s seen and done a lot in his career, and in his life. He’s a good and fair man. And I know that if I got into trouble, he wouldn’t help me fix it. He’d make me take my lumps. That’s just the kind of man he is. And that’s good. I’m glad he’s that kind of man. I’m so very proud of the fact that I am his daughter. And that I call him Daddy. Even after all these years, I still call him my Daddy.