Seven years ago today my phone rang a little after 3 a.m.. I heard my mom’s voice on the other end of the line. My Dad was in the hospital, and we needed to come quick.
The five hour car ride to the hospital in Houston was interrupted about 45 minutes before we arrived with another call from my mom. My dad didn’t make it.
There are moments in your life that you will never forget. They change you. They bring more pain to your heart than you can ever imagine. Over time, the pain is replaced with memories. Sometimes those memories make you laugh. Sometimes, for a moment or two, the memories allow the pain to flow out of your eyes as little tear drops. Sometimes, you simply wish you had more of the memories left to hold onto.
Once everyone had gone to bed on that day 7 years ago, and the first few hours of the first day without my dad around anymore had started, I laid in bed wide awake. I didn’t know what to do, so I did what I do best. I wrote what my heart was thinking…
The Ups & Downs of Being a Daughter
As a little girl growing up, you always dream of the day your dad will walk you down the aisle and give you away. The day he will get to meet the man you finally deemed good enough to take care of you the way he wanted you to be taken care of.
It’s funny the things you think of when you realize that dream won’t come true – not because you didn’t finally meet Mr. Right.
There is no doubt in my mind my dad would have been so proud and honored to call Brandon his son-in-law. You also know growing up someday you will have to say goodbye to your parents.
The first time is always easy. You’re supposed to spread your wings and fly. It’s easy when you have my parents. They gave me strong wings, and anytime the air beneath them may have started to blow in the wrong direction, they blew me back up high.
The second time is not easy.
It is full of ups and downs.
The ups of learning how your dad (the man in the pink wrecker or the funny blue hat) helped so many people. The downs of knowing he won’t be there anymore.
The ups of remembering the first father daughter dance as a Brownie. The downs of knowing there will be no father daughter dance at my wedding.
The ups of remembering our fishing trips – and knowing Brandon will continue the legacy of me not having to touch a fish. The downs of never making the trip to Gaston with dad that we wanted to do this spring.
The ups of remembering the day Ethan was born and the smile on dad’s face. The downs of having to explain to a 4 year old that his grandfather will always be in his heart – and now “I love you all the way to heaven and back” has a new meaning.
The ups of knowing 31 years ago two good friends introduced my parents – and here Donald and I are almost 29 years later. The downs of knowing my mom has lost her best friend, and I can’t take that pain away.
The ups of knowing my dad was always stubborn – and that Baiter trait was passed on to me. The downs of wishing at times we just wish he didn’t always have to be right.
The ups of knowing I have an amazing mom who is the strongest person I have ever met. The downs of knowing why I’m seeing her so strong.
The ups of getting to sleep next to my mom again like I did when I was a little girl. The downs of wishing like anything the blanket around me was my dad – though I feel his love around me as I type.
The ups of remembering how my dad was always there to keep me safe on the road – and get me out of a few tickets sometimes just because my name was Baiter and the DPS officers he’d helped along the way just couldn’t give me a ticket. The downs of having to remember to check my own oil and tires now. (Okay Donald and Brandon … need your help here).
The ups of remembering, “I’ll give you 3 guesses…”. The downs of knowing I’d take any of those 3 guesses right now.
The ups of having Brandon finally get to come to my hometown and meet my best friends. The downs of my dad not being here too. The ups of finding out who your true friends are. No downs there! 🙂
The ups of seeing the lawn mower he finished for Donald this week. The ups of knowing how proud he was of it. The downs of knowing Donald’s 2nd biggest supporter is gone.
The ups of being home again – they’re wrong, you can always go home again. The downs to realizing they’re right – everything changes.
The ups of knowing my dad was so proud of all his children. The downs of knowing my sister isn’t here with us right now – and knowing he never got to shadow her with the love he felt in his heart for her the way he did Donald and me.
The ups of knowing dad would listen to me complain every day after work about petty things that didn’t matter because he knew I needed a venting board. The downs … my board is gone.
The ups of knowing dad waited by the phone for me to call so he could talk. The ups of being his “pretty girlfriend” when he described me to my mom on the phone. The downs of knowing I skipped calling home on Wednesday night because I got so focused in unimportant things.
The ups of remembering how proud he was in 2001 for being named Citizen of the Year – for helping save people. The downs of not being able to save him in the end.
The ups of knowing he won’t have to suffer or live in a nursing home at some point. The downs of being selfish.
The ups of knowing dad would always come to Huntsville if I made it in from Texarkana. The downs of wishing I’d spent more time fishing with him when he brought the poles.
The ups of knowing you can’t spend time wishing. The downs of convincing no-regret to your heart.
The ups of remembering my favorite baby photo of me asleep on his chest as he napped – because twins can wear you out. The downs of knowing when I have my first child, he or she will never know Grandpa Baiter.
The ups of promising to teach Ethan to fish. The downs of realizing that means I may have to touch a fish.
The ups of saying that’s okay. The downs of saying, no it’s not. 🙂
The ups of studying journalism and the skill of releasing heart ache on paper. The ups of knowing dad supported me each step of the way in that degree. The downs … no downs.
The ups of knowing he touched so many lives in 64 years. The downs of all the aching hearts we can’t heal right now.
The good news is, I know in time the downs will fade out and the ups (of which there are millions more in my memories and heart) will take their place. They have to.
When I spread my wings and said goodbye the first time, daddy always pushed me up. I know I have to focus on those ups now daddy.
I just want you to know daddy, I could never have asked for more. You loved me the way you knew how, and I loved you too. I will always be daddy’s little girl. And I promise daddy, I’ll take care of mom, Donald and Ethan for you.
We will all focus on the ups. We know you want us to soar. I love you daddy!
Life is Full of Ups & Downs
Seven years without my dad. Life has found a new normal.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t still cry from time to time in the early morning hours or late at night when no one else is around. But I try to stop the tears because I know my dad would give anything just to see me smile.
So much has changed since Dad left.
I got married…bought a house…had a child (who is almost 4)…changed jobs…hosted holidays in my home…buried his mom…went to a family reunion without him.
So much has stayed the same since Dad left.
The sun still rises in the morning and the moon appears at night. The bills keep coming. Our little family still does our best to get together monthly, but it’s a little blonde hair blue eyed girl, instead of a sweet blonde hair blue eyed Grandpa who now sits at Dad’s seat when we play games.
That’s the thing about life. It just goes on. Through its ups and downs we grow stronger. When we lose someone who is literally half of our being, we find ways to work harder to ensure the legacy they left behind in us teaches the next generation a little bit about the roots that built our family tree.