As a dad, there are sounds that I will always remember. These sounds are simple. These are the sounds of my daughter laughing and sometimes crying. They are the sounds a child makes while running through the lawn sprinkler and screaming happily in a high-pitched scream. My daughter has certainly made a few of these sounds. Over the years, I’ve collected them like tiny pieces of memorabilia.
I hold them close so that one day, whenever my little girl grows up and heads off into the world and the last thing she thinks about is her dad, I will have a collection of memories—and when I need to, I cansit like an old man, flip open the imaginary box where I keep these memories, and I can thumb through them with a smile
I remember when my daughter was very young and her room was decorated like a princess room. She had princess dresses on a rack and a make-believe makeup table with a make-believe perfume station that talked, make believe curlers for her hair, and a make believe lipstick. I remember this well.
I remember standing in doorway of her room and listening to my child as she sat on her bed with large, fluffy princess blankets and pillows—all of her stuffed animals were lined up in a row as she spoke to them as if they were real. She was so small then. I called her Punky. For as long as I can recall, I call her Punky. I call her this because the name fits her. Punky, that’s my little girl.
Once, I took Punky to one of the playgrounds in my old neighborhood. This was behind one of the town’s elementary schools. She was too small to climb up on much of the rides. She was too little to climb the ladder for the slide or the little rock-wall.
She and I played and I explained what the playground looked like when I was a young boy. This playground was behind Barnum Woods Elementary School, which was a better playground than the one behind my grade school. I went to McVey, and well, McVey’s playground was simply not as nice.
I told Punky about the wooden kingdom that used to be behind Barnum Woods. This wooden kingdom was an enormous jungle gym.
Complete with slides and monkey bars, it was an overall, large obstacle course that we used and we used it well. I told Punky how we played hide and go seek. The rules of the game were you couldn’t go off the planks of the wooden kingdom. Hide anywhere, but no one could touch the ground. Anyone that stepped off the planks, the slides, the walkways, or anyplace on the castle and touched the ground was automatically it.
Of course, everyone cheated at one point or another. And yes, of course, there were arguments about who cheated and there was always someone accusing, “I saw you touch the ground, you cheater. You’re it!”
Punky looked up at me while I told her these stories. She seemed partly interested. I was party unsure if she understood and partly unsure if she wanted to play more. I was unsure where else to take my little girl because even the best dads are sometimes unsure of what to do next.
Parenting changes us, but I cannot say parenting in all cases is natural. It wasn’t natural for me. I was not sure what to do with a little girl. I never knew too many little girl games or played dress-up. I learned to do these things with Punky. She was two years-old then. Her mother and I were newly divorced, and suddenly, there was more weight on my shoulders because whatever time I had to spend with my daughter was always on a clock—there was always a barrier to break through because this was all so strange to Punky. There were personal obstacles that as a man and father, I had to learn to overcome.
I admit it. I was a failure as a previous husband. I was afraid. I was afraid of not being a good dad. I was afraid that I would somehow screw up and that one day, my little girl would resent me. I was afraid of the amount of work and responsibility that goes along with being a father.
Certainly, in my case this was easier. Being a weekend dad is easier.
It’s easier—not better, just easier.
I had to accept a few unchangeable and undeniable facts. First and more obvious than anything else; I would not see Punky on a daily basis. Eventually, another man would see my daughter more often than me.
I would not hear Punky in the morning or be there to calm her if she woke during the night. This does not mean that I would have been super dad. Being a man, by nature, I come with a long list of defects. I sleep heavy, so I might not have woken as easily. I make mistakes, so I might have fed my daughter something that would make any woman, or more accurately, any mother slap a palm to their forehead, shaking their head, “No,” and wondering how I could be so incredibly stupid.
I admit it; I am this man. I admit that I was not the best diaper changer in the world. Punky has parts unlike male parts. I learned quickly the important methods of diaper changing and proper cleaning so not to cause any sort of infection or issue below.
I remember the first time I gave Punky a bath. I was new to my apartment and this was her first sleep over. I bathed her. I cleaned her. Then I wrapped a towel around her. I remember the first time I blew her hair dry. I remember the first time Punky ate dinner at my apartment. We watched movies on my television because cable had yet to come and all I had were three movies. The first movie was pulp fiction (not for kids, I knew that). The second was Toy Story, and the other movie was Cars.
Eventually this collection grew. I had a fish tank in my apartment. Punky loved the fish tank. I had a cat too. The cat was named Tiki. She was a little gray kitten, fluffy, and very playful. I remember Punky wouldn’t sleep anyplace other than in my bed—and to be honest, I didn’t mind this very much.
I remember the sound when Punky was fast asleep. She was so tired after a long day, her little body curled up in a ball, her curly blonde hair hung wildly over her face—all of this was so surreal, so amazing to me, and all of this was so much bigger than me. As well, all of this was frightening.
What if I screw this up?
What if I fail as a dad?
I remember in a movie from the 80’s, a girl was about to have a baby. When she went home to tell her parents, they absolutely forbade it saying, “No! You can’t have a baby. You had a gerbil once and it died!”
I related to this.
Another movie I related to was the scene front Forest Gump. When Forest learns that he is a father, Forest asks, “Is he smart, or is he . . . is he like,” and what Forest was trying to say, “Or is he like me?” meaning stupid.
I felt this way too. I was most afraid that Punky would inherit my fears and flaws. I was afraid she would inherit my depression and my learning disabilities. I was afraid she would one day struggle with addiction and alcoholism too. I was afraid (same as Forest Gump was afraid) that she would be like me—stupid.
I remember the first time Punky said, “I love you Daddy.”
This is when I moved from an apartment and found myself a nice small house in the town where I grew up. I knew the neighborhood as well as it knew me. I had memories here. I had history. And since I felt as if I had been blessed to survive myself and my life had moved in a full circle; I was grateful to come back to the place where I grew up and create new and better memories.
I remember the first time I took Punky to the bagel store on Front Street. I felt all the eyes of all the girls in the store were on me. I was lost in the precious moment, which seemed to impress some of the girls behind the counter. Their eyes lit up, eyebrows lifted, and mouth hung open, exposing a big, white-toothed, and adorning smile. I remember this because I decided to act like a ham. Unfortunately, my attempt to impress these young girls had backfired on me.
While bouncing Punky up and down on my arm as I held her close to me, she began to dance. And while she danced, I decided to slip in an ounce of my own cuteness. I told Punky that she had a little tushy.
Punky immediately stopped dancing. She looked at me with a cross look. Her eyebrows folded downward, lips puckered like Arnold Jackson from the show Different Strokes, and angrily, Punky shot back at me.
“No I don’t!” said Punky.
“Yes you do,” I said back playfully.
“I do not have a little tushy,” remarked Punky.
“Yes you do,” I told her.
At this point, the girls in the bagel store were all in. They were watching me—a young dad, somewhat good-looking or at least trying to be, showing my abilities to be a loving father because after all, what does something like this say? This says, “I’m good.” This says, “I’m impressive.” It says that I am capable of love. It says, “Date me or do me, I am in desperate need of attention”
Punky warned me one last time
“I do not have a little tushy!”
“Yes you do,” I told Punky. You’re sitting on it and its right in my hand.”
“You have a little tushy,” I told her.
“Oh yeah,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said.
This was it. The atmosphere was perfect. I was looking so cool (or so I thought) until Punky answered me back one final time.
“Oh yeah? Well if I have a little tushy then you have a little penis!”
Quickly, the atmosphere changed. All the girls in the store that watched me with adoring eyes burst into laughter and walked off—each of them giggling in different directions, leaving me to order our bagels with an ego that deflated like a baloon shot halfway around the room.
There was another incident similar to this, which I call the boobies incident. Punky was still very young. We were together in the mall. I was standing outside of one of the stores and along came a large-chested woman, running quickly down the corridor with her busty chest nearly popping out from a tightly worn, gray and black, V-neck sweater. It was unclear if this girl was going to burst at the seams. I was unclear that if she did, would the young girl survive, or would one of her huge, over-sized breasts, pop out, and bash her in the face.
The girl was young—exceptionally attractive; tanned, skinned, lipstick, eyes all sparkling, hair well-done and sprayed in a nice style. The clacking from the heels of her high-heeled, black, knee-high boots that lifted over her tight blue jeans, which was fashionably ripped, were clacking quickly as the girl ran fast down the corridor.
Of course, I was there to see this. I wonder if my mouth was open as this girl ran passed me, which I’m sure it was.
Another person in my company was Punky. Apparently, Punky noticed the young woman’s oversized mammary glands. She knew what they were called too, and in perfect timing, Punky saw this and looked at me with a big smile. She laughed and said, “Da bubbies!” only Punky said this in a loud enough voice that the young girl could hear as my child announced in a long, slow introduction of the young girl’s body parts.
“DA BUBBIES!” said Punky. After which, I received the most evil and deadly stare from that big chested girl. Yet still, it was all worth it!
I remember this well. I remember these things from when Punky was only a young princess. To me, however, Punky will always be my little princess. She will always be my little girl. Along the way, she will grow. She will learn new things. Someday, she will find someone that will make her a queen instead of a princess. I know this will happen. I also know that I will not play well with this. Somewhat overprotective, I am sure I will try to be nice—but as a dad, I sincerely doubt that I will play well in the sandbox with anyone trying to date or marry my daughter.
Tomorrow is a special day for Punky. She will undergo a ceremony or a service, which, in the eyes of God and the religion Punky has chosen, this will make my little girl an adult in the eyes of her faith. This is a big thing. This is a real big thing in fact.
It’s crazy . . .
Divorce comes because it has to. I understand this well. Divorce is a necessary evil when two cannot and will not get along. Although necessary, divorce is not often fair to both parents. With reasons, I am not included much in tomorrow’s event. I am following Punky’s wishes on this and I will be where I was asked to be, at the right time and at the right place.
With this, two things are difficult for a dad like me. First, it will be hard to see this service without being included or even considered as I witness my little girl become an adult in the eyes of God. It will be hard to see Punky interact with her stepfather more than me, her true father. Second, and more painfully, it is hard seeing my little girl grow up. It’s hard because I am afraid of the times I will miss when she grows older. I’m afraid that one day, “Dad’s house,” is not going to be the place to go anymore.
I remember the first time I saw my Punky dance with all her heart because she loved a song that much that she couldn’t stop herself. This was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I say this because it was so beautiful and pure. I keep this in my memory box. This way, regardless to the memories in Punky’s life that I miss out on—no one can ever take away the memories I was there for.
Now go get’em Punky
I will be there just like you asked me to be.