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There are few things more delightful that watching a father and daughter together. Whether it’s a soccer dad tentatively balancing the very pink swaddled infant against his shoulder, a toddler pulling daddy toward her destination talking 100 miles an hour to explain why it’s the most important thing he will ever see, or the bemused father hanging in the background of a 16 year old’s selfie — each interaction is pure love and trust.

My Daddy was tall…. I learned as a little girl to run or skip, multiplying my steps so I could be beside him. The quintessential Southern gentleman, he loved loved three things — God, education and women. There were times when one or the other mattered most — for me, it was wonderful when he focused on education. We would have the most stimulating discussions, he knew how to uncover the perfect kernel of research that would move an argument from cogent to point made, ‘surrender and I’ll be kind.’ The other facets of his triumvirate were oft times a source of contention, discussion and sometimes utter ridiculousness. In the wake of Mama’s death, my dad was a hot commodity among the casserole ladies, and that didn’t displease him.  As an aside, just a suggestion to any woman thinking of dating a dad with a daughter, two pieces of advice: 1) never tell a girl that you will be a fantastic replacement for her mom (especially if said mom died tragically 6 weeks before), and 2) never ever provide details of your relationship to the girl (icky and so not needed). Eventually, he and I came to an accommodation that involved never interfering in each other’s relationship drama. It worked exceptionally well for the most part — and to this day I still miss our daily calls. Little things, from a “six letter word for the outdoors,” to the fate of nations, I wonder how Daddy would react to any given decision I make.

With Daddy’s predilections for women, at one point he had six girlfriends, because even the Lord rested on the seventh day — he quite often recused himself from moral judgement — preferring me to find my own way. Being his daughter, my first recourse was to find a book and I went through many looking for that voice I wanted in my head as I weighed my values on any given topic. After wading through ethics, philosophy, history — my voice came from a quiet little novel that may be among the best ever written. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his children, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what… (112).” That’s the line propelled me into action more times than I can count. However, deep within me runs Atticus’ notion that you needed to slip on someone else’s skin and walk around a little before you condemn them. Of course, it is just retooled, “judge not, lest you be judged.” Nonetheless, Lee’s verbiage is the one that resonated and stopped me from snapping conclusions. Many times, it has been suggested that I work on upping my bitch quotient– and of course, in any given situation I can find the cutting remark or the snark — but my inner “Atticus,” asks, “what are they reacting to?, can I see the why?” and it short circuits the anger, so who needs to throw vitriol — and maybe I find a better way to resolve things and a channel to understanding.

On this Father’s Day, I offer to all the daughters the joy that can come from knowing that someone believes in you implicitly — that he will hold your hand until you are soaring and then laugh with you as you explore the heights. To the daddies, give her that rock — you don’t have to be perfect…. just love her and believe she is magnificent.

Thanks Benjamin Gladstone Gray and thanks for the assist, Mr. Finch.

daddy-daughter rotation:

  • Dumb Blonde  (Dolly Parton) — one of the joys of having a Daddy that loved music & laughing, was he introduced me to this song….
  • That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine (Gene Autry) — classic country paean to Dads — my mom would get all misty-eyed every time it played — and there’s a version online with the Everly Brothers and Johnny Cash that is fantastic
  • Daddy’s Little Girl (the Mills Brothers) — standard father-daugher song — I remember learning to waltz standing on Daddy’s size 13 shoes and whirling around the living room.
  • Granddaddy (AJ Roach) — underrated performer who’s evokes the Southern experience in a line,, this tribute to his grandfather is tender and melodic
  • Daddy sang Bass (Johnny Cash) — fun song that usually has the car trying to do harmonies — at least once a generation
  • Daddy’s Gone to Knoxville (Mark Knopfler) — warm voice, sweet song about a traveling Dad.
  • I Wanna Be Like You (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) — cover of the King Louis from Jungle Book
  • Everybody Needs Somebody to Love (from the Blues Brothers) — Mick Jagger has a version of this I love, but is there a “man of a certain age,” that this doesn’t hit…
  • I’m Alright (Kenny Loggins) — likewise, this classic from Caddyshack
  • Is you is or is you ain’t my baby (Bing Crosby) — there are sometimes you don’t want to believe mass media — in my imaginings he would have been a spectacular dad, but maybe not?
  • Gonna Be some Changes Made (Bruce Hornsby) — helping you to be ready for anything, yes?
  • Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition (Kay Kyser) — an NC big band leader who enjoyed a flurry of fame in the swing era — “and we’ll all stay free”
  • I like to Move it (from Madagascar) — King Julian became a daddy/daughter wake up song
  • Father Time (Donna Hughes) — a glorious voice and a stellar performer — she marks the passage of time with colored words..
  • Father & Daughter (Paul Simon) — I have always loved him — and this cut from one of his most recent albums is just a gorgeous tribute to the power of that love
  • What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong) — there are times when the world is just this staggeringly lovely and sense-full
  • You are my sunshine (Elizabeth Mitchell) — there are a billion covers, Elizabeth Mitchell’s is sweet and sincere, Papillon brings the cajun — but I will never forget my Daddy’s voice when this song plays, his baritone duets in my head,,,

I had an inheritance from my father, it was the moon and the sun. And though I roam all over the world, the spending of it’s never done –> Ernest Hemingway

Take care,
Aly

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