And, you know what? My parents always made a point to humor me. It didn't matter what time either came in (Mom might be at a night class, Dad on some horse-related or farm-piddling trip), they always walked back to the room that is now Isabella's and quietly responded in kind. I can even remember telling Mom, "I don't care what time Dad comes in, make sure he comes back and tells us nighty night."
In retrospect, however, I don't think I enjoyed this ritual solely because it helped mark off a daily"to-do." I imagine (and I'm not one for psychoanalysis or anything) that I liked this little phrase because it was also the one time of the day that Dad and I both told each other we loved each other. You see, my father, the man whose passion for his farm and family was certainly obvious in deed, was very stoic when it came to words. In fact, I don't really remember he and I mentioning that we "loved each other" until the last year of his life (we probably wore him out telling him in the hospital:)). This never bothered me, however, for two reasons: 1) I am my father's daughter in many ways, and this happens to be one of them. I can be guarded with my emotions even if if my heart is full.; 2) He literally showed me every single day how much he loved me and our family.
So, he may have been a man of few words (ha, well at least when it came to gushy stuff:)), an emotional crime to some, but I honestly never felt slighted. And even though I may have secretly enjoyed the "nighty night" business because I got to hear him say it, I didn't "need" it...I didn't need it because I had these things:
A father who would let me go to the barn with him and "help" no matter how much I was likely in the way.
A father who showed us how to bottle feed calves and strip tobacco and ride ponies.
A father who would bring said ponies to the yard during birthday parties and take our friends for rides; or to the county fair so Leigh and I could win a trophy.
A father who would wear me out if I needed it. We kind of giggled at Mom and her fly swat; Dad's spanks typically curbed whatever behavior got us on the wrong side of his hand in the first place.
A father who took us sledding and fishing and to George Strait concerts.
A father who helped with our math homework, making more sense in 10 minutes than an entire class lecture had earlier in the day.
A father who introduced me to Lyle Lovett and Chris LeDoux in the passenger seat of a pickup truck heading to Oklahoma.
A father who came to every ballgame and track meet, no matter if it was weekend or workweek. And the man who would let me and/or the referee "have it" if he felt we weren't playing up to our potential.:)
A father who told the same stories, often from his favorite brown leather chair in the living room, but who found a way to make them even funnier each time.
A father who was both quick-witted foolish and incredibly and perceptively smart.
A father who had a keen sense of justice and morality, one based less on religion or politics, and more so on the simple notion of "just do things the right way/treat people the right way simply because you should."
A father who respected a huge variety of people and taught his kids to do the same. Dad didn't care about race or gender or class or sexual orientation. He appreciated "shoot 'em straight, honest, hard-working" people.
A father who took us for Sunday drives.
A father who drove around beater trucks, embarrassing his middle-school daughters, with the same sense of pride as those in expensive little sports cars.
A father without pretense. A man comfortable in his own skin. A dad who thus helped his daughters be the same (Mom, I couldn't have said it any better than you).
A father who asked about my day even while he was in the hospital.
A father who loved Isaiah, Lydia, and Caroline as though they were blood kin.
A father who I felt really "got me." Dad always seemed to understand my wandering ways even when they were mixed with a contradictory desire to feel settled.
A father whose courage and humility motivate me everyday. I don't think I will ever witness someone whose fortitude to stay alive, and really be "alive," is so strong.
A father who was a realist. He never felt sorry for himself or as though he was "above" cancer.
A father who just grinned when I caught him eating Doritos and chewing tobacco while taking a chemo infusion. I'll never forget his response to my concerned pleas that maybe neither were a good idea: "Yeah, I'd hate for something to kill me."
A father who gave me more funny, endearing, and pride-inducing memories in 30 years than many have from parent-child relationships that last much longer.
So, to the father I never told nearly enough, but the father who knew me well enough to make it unnecessary.... I love you so much.