Give me bear hugs. Teach me how to ride my bike. Burp a song into a paper towel roll to make me laugh. Put bunny ears behind my head in pictures. Carry me when I broke my ankle. Make ice cream the thing that fixes all my sorrows. Cheer me on at Little League.
Take me for rides in your garbage truck. Let my friends and I ride in the bed of the pick-up truck while you fly down hills. Take me to my first drive-in movie. Let me wear your t-shirt as a dress when I pee my pants at the Meadowlands Fair. Throw a pizza and chocolate milk party for just the two of us in the middle of July.
Lift me up to pick apples out of a tree. Dress up as Santa for me. Love my friends as much as you loved me. Be my first workout partner. Gently explain it’s time to go pick out deodorant for me. Give me rose bud earrings when I get my first period and tell me to not be ashamed of the woman I am becoming. Reassure me that I’ll always be your little girl.
Protect me against anyone who dares to try and hurt me – including my own mother. Take me out on dates so I know how a man should treat me. Teach me how to cook and garden. Make me cut the grass and clean the pool so I know what responsibility is. Make it a house rule that the word stupid is never used to describe me.
Take me to open my first bank account. Show me how to do bills and keep a checkbook. Risk your life by teaching me how to drive. Be adamant about me putting my thoughts on paper and accessing the poetic side of myself. Push me to always do better.
Cover your beard in Cheerios and cross your eyes until I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. Rush me to the hospital just before my appendix burst. Tell me stories about your childhood and great-grandmother.
Expose your pain and sensitivity to me. Let me know life can be a bitch and teach me to distinguish between the person and the parent. Alienate yourself from me. Give me the silent treatment during your withdrawals after 6 days of binging. Sit me down and tell me that I can’t stop you because it’s your life.
Pick at your gorgeous freckled skin until there is nothing left but pink scars. Wake me up at 3 a.m., drag me outside, and tell me that the men behind the fence have our house tapped and they are going to take me from you.
Be totally unaware that I am the one wiping your bloody nose with a warm washcloth while you lay passed out. Be too high to realize my first boyfriend beat the shit out of me. Invite drug dealers and homeless people to come live in my home. Be too caught up in drugs to realize they were trying to fuck me.
Have me cover for your dealers when the cops pull me over and question me. Teach me how to sell prescription meds on the street. Ask me to pay for all the bills that didn’t get paid because you put it up your nose. Hold me, cry, and apologize when the highs and withdrawals wear off.
Rip my heart out. Binge with my mother the night before her death. Promise me you won’t leave me alone and that you’ll be there to see my “little bambinos”. Die seven weeks later from an overdose of street drugs and prescription meds. Rip my heart out again. Leave me with all the bills, the burden of funeral arrangements, estates, and a numb mind. Teach me exactly what I don’t want in life.
You were the greatest man in my life until you weren’t. Pieces of me died with you that day but you taught me how to survive and be enough for myself. Thank you for that. You tried your damnedest to be the best father you could be and for that, I’ll always love you.