My earliest memories are of my daddy. I actually remember lying in my crib (I'm guessing I was about 18 months old), hearing the front door open, crying out for him. It was the middle of the night, because he was at the time working nights, and I had apparently trained myself to hear him come in. With a little help, apparently, because I'm told he would come in and jiggle the crib to wake me up, just to get time with me.
Our ritual was that he would wrap me in a blanket, sit me on the kitchen worktop, and feed me cereal. It was our special, secret time together. No wonder I associated food with love and had a lifetime struggle with my weight, but that's another story. I've shared all this just to convey how important my Daddy was to my early development. I knew at an early age that I was the center of his universe, and it imprinted my own self-image. I was fabulous. I was loved. I could do anything. When, years later, the messages changed to "women are inferior to men" and "girls don't need to go to college (unless of course, they want to be teachers or nurses)," it was too late, I already believed in myself. Everything I am -- good and bad -- I can trace back to him.
We had our ups and downs over the years, at some points I thought I hated him. Possibly I was more like him in some ways than I wanted to admit. Certainly we are different in many ways, as well. But in any event, we repaired our relationship and have gotten along well for most of my adult life (it helps that I've lived thousands of miles away for much of it).
It's important to me now, as he ages and I face the realities of the future. About a year and a half ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's probably hardest on my mom, who has to live with the same stories he tells over and over again. He seems happier than I can ever remember him being. Living in the past, he remembers only the happy memories. He's not anxious (the result of providing for a family of six kids), and he's not angry, as I mostly remember him. He giggles a lot now. Mostly, he just remembers old times. And in our family, old times include singing.
When I went home to Oklahoma to visit in February, I got him to sing for me, and recorded some videos on my mobile phone. Today I finally got around to uploading them onto YouTube. If you're interested, you can see them on my YouTube page. Here's to Daddys everywhere, and the Daddy's girls they created, sometimes in spite of themselves.