Daddy-Daughter Day | Families
It’s a Friday and I’m on a 9:55pm flight to Las Vegas.
My parents have been watching Daphne for the past week and I’m on my way to bring her back to Northern California. I smile as I imagine the look on Daphne’s face when I walk into the room and she notices that it’s me; how so beautifully indescribable that feeling will be.
And then the reality of why I’m 10,000 feet in the air jolts me back to earth. I’m taking my baby girl back to Sacramento for one reason and one reason only:
Roger is going to die.
Upon that realization, my mind is back to where it was before takeoff: like a recent divorcee on a Thursday night, developing a plan to shoehorn as many memories as possible into one weekend.
When I arrive in Las Vegas, my parents are so exhilarated and can’t stop telling me story after story of Daphne’s meteoric rise to becoming the Darling of the Del Webb Retirement Community. This moment should make me happy. But with each tale my parents tell me, I’m reminded of the Daphne and Papa Roger story, a three act play that ends before the first act.
During a weekend two months ago Carrie and I are having a non-serious argument over the phone.
She’s recapping a conversation with Roger’s neighbor, Millie. After Carrie explains to Millie that she’s in Sacramento taking care of her Dad as he goes through hospice care, and that I’m 75 miles away taking care of Daphne. Millie says, “It’s totally Daddy-Daughter day”.
“She’s right” I say. “Daphne and I are totally having a Daddy-Daughter day”.
“No”. Carrie replies, “She meant me and my Dad”.
And as the son-in-law you tend to forget, that you’ve married someone else’s baby girl. That your wife’s chubby little baby face lit up when she noticed her father walk into a room. And still does.
Roger will always be her Daddy. And Carrie will always be his Daughter. And the look she gives when she notices it’s her Dad will solely be his. And that feeling as a Father will always be beautifully indescribable.
“Ok,” I say. “You can have this day”
As Carrie summarizes her Daddy-Daughter day, I can’t help but draw parallels to Daphne and my day together but with a few subtle differences:
Instead of 4 ounces of formula, Carrie’s feeding her Dad 3ounces of Ensure.
Instead of reading children’s books, they’re reading the Bible.
I’m taking pictures of Daphne while Carrie and Roger are going through old photo albums.
I’m charting all of Daphne’s “firsts”, while Carrie’s taking mental notes of their “lasts”.
And as I listen, the juxtaposition of hope and memories floods my mind; and how as a parent-child relationship progresses, the balance of the two shifts. With Daphne and me, every single action is based on a foundation of hope. I’m reading to her because I want her to be smart (so she can be president). I’m feeding her because I want her to be strong (so she can be an Olympian). I’m taking pictures of us to hang on her dorm room wall (when she goes to Stanford).
With Carrie and her Dad, every single action is based on a foundation of memories. Carrie’s joking about the first time she ate chicken feet. They’re smiling at pictures of Carrie’s college graduation. Roger’s expressing pride that one daughter is an architect and the other is a nurse.
When I hang up the phone, I realize that only time and opportunity can give us memories. And as time runs out, so do your opportunities to create those memories. I know this now because time has already run out.
It’s a Sunday morning and Carrie and Frances are holding their Father’s hands.
They are on either side of his bed, and over and over they tell their Father that they love him and that everything is going to be alright. And as Roger’s last breath leaves him, this is his last glimpse of this world. When I play this back in my mind, I recognize a simple and radiant truth: Roger’s last memory is holding his daughters’ hands. His last image is the face of his daughters.
I can only imagine how beautifully indescribable that feeling would be.
When Daphne is old enough she’ll ask me about her first word.
I will tell her that I flew her back from Lolo and Lola’s house in Las Vegas to Papa Roger’s house in Sacramento.
I will tell her that Papa Roger was very sick in bed and that Daphne was there to cheer him up. I’ll then describe how we played peek-a-boo with Daddy standing behind Papa Roger’s bed with Mommy and baby Daphne staring at us on the other side. And I’ll illustrate how she laughed so hard that it sounded like a grown man’s chuckle.
I will then tell Daphne that she stopped laughing, she looked at Papa Roger with a huge smile, and then as clear as day she yelled, “PA-PA!”
I will then tell Daphne that Papa Roger, even though he was so weak from being sick, he mustered all the energy he could and he gave her a little smile.