For as long as I remember, night time was the time for me to be my father’s daughter.
As a kid, gripped by what I can now identify as the start of a lifelong battle with insomnia, I would be stay up long into the wee hours, long enough to hear the rhythmic beep-beep of my father’s alarm clock. I’d slip out of bed quietly, folding myself into clothes I’d laid out carefully the night before, and wait until I heard the click that meant the door to his room had been opened. I’d bound into the gold hallway, hushed but insistent, “Daddy can I go?”
Sometimes, he would say no. But I would live for the times he said yes. Perhaps he just wanted company. Perhaps he knew I’d stay up anyway and wanted me doing something more constructive than watching old cartoons and infomercials. Or maybe he knew, just like I knew at that age, that these hours were the few hours we could manage where it was just us.
I was a child, looking forward to childish things like being up all night and the sweetness of the chocolate glazed donut he would inevitably get me. But even then I knew there was something precious about this time, not shared with my little brother or my stepmom, not burdened by to do lists or visitation endings. We’d ride through the night, music blasting or talk radio on, or sometimes nothing but our own conversation to carry us through the ride. It seemed like those hours of darkness right before the sun rose were when I could see my daddy for who he was; not the hard working if absent parent I got to see on designated weekends. Not the sometimes stoic man with the past he hardly spoke of. But he had his own life and his own memories, a rhythm to his jokes and a special timbre to his voice I wasn’t familiar with during the world’s waking hours.
Though not by much, little by little I got to know him.
In the wee hours of the morning this morning, just like many mornings when sleep and I are distant cousins, I think of my father somewhere out in the world, humble and hardworking as he has been since I was a kid. I think of long, drawn out emphasis on the e’s in all the pleases I would shower over him so that he’d take me to work with him, of him teaching me to read maps, of throwing newspapers out of car windows and aiming for mailboxes. I think of him brushing my hair into a neat ponytail and bundling me up like an Eskimo for winter months. I think of him ordering my eggs just the way I like them and making me heaping pallets of coats and shirts that smelled of him to sleep on when I couldn’t keep my eyes open a minute longer. I think of him wiping icing off my nose and telling me I am the prettiest girl in the whole world.
And though he isn’t the type to admit it, to me or anyone else for that matter, I hope that wherever he is, he is thinking of the same.