It seems like yesterday I was rocking you in the middle of the night, playing Madden 64.
You were a tough sleeper – you hated it. So I’d sit downstairs with you, all night, every night. I’d rock you. I’d lay you on a pallet on the floor. I cranked that stupid hand-me-down swing so many times that it finally gave out, at 5:30 one Thanksgiving morning. I loaded you up and headed off to the K-mart for an emergency replacement.
I remember taking you to your first doctor’s appointment. Me and you. I was a terrified 23 year old dad, with no concept of well rooms and co-payments. I remember cradling you in my arms after you shrieked because that crazy nurse tried to weigh you. I couldn’t believe it either.
I remember you playing in the bathtub with Coleman, when neither of you were big enough to get out.
I remember working day and night building you a swingset, doing everything I could to make it by Christmas morning, and barely squeaking it in under the wire.
I remember dance recitals, and basketball games. Soccer matches and hunting trips. I remember you catching your first redfish, off a dock at Little Gasparilla – you were wearing pajamas with pumpkins on them, and you were barely big enough to hold the pole and reel at the same time.
I remember you cussing at the tv over a Halo match when you were 3. I remember every Saturday, every single one . . . I’d get up at the crack of dawn with you, and I’d lay on the couch, and you’d sit on my back and we’d watch cartoons.
I remember trips to Andy’s, and school field trips. Taking you to Space Camp. Having to get you to school early for “Good Morning Lake Shipp.” Did I ever tell you how much I love taking you to school? I wrote a blog post about it one time, remembering when I’d sing the Longhorn Song for you . . .
I remember our Harry Potter trip (if you’ve never read this post, you really should – I wrote it about you and Harry Potter years ago). One of my proudest days as a dad, from the sense of being able to do something for my daughter that I knew she wanted. I remember every fish you’ve ever caught, almost always followed by the question . . . “can we keep it?”
I remember boat rides, and birthday parties, and trick-or-treating and church . . . bunk beds and room makeovers . . . school dances and radio sing-a-longs . . . Horse drawn carriage rides to look at Christmas lights . . . running around DC with your $2 flip-flops . . . shrimp boils and peanut boils and frying more chicken than should be allowed, just to see your face light up . . . making you clean your room and do yard work and wash cars and load the dishwasher and say “yes ma’am” . . . teaching you to swim, and feigning disapproval at your bathing suit choices . . . taking you for a ride in a convertible . . . sleeping on the floor in the living room so you could have my bed . . . coaching you on Fantasy Football, only to have you leave me high and dry as the season progressed . . . eating oysters and sushi . . .
It’s all happened in about 15 minutes. I blinked and you were grown. No longer a little girl. A young lady. A young woman.
And now Dad gets to become more of a spectator, albeit one screaming and cheering and holding up signs from the sidelines . . . hooting and hollering and wishing and praying for my girl . . .
I remember looking down into that clear little bassinet thing they have you in at the hospital. I remember loving you so much that it physically hurt, and wondering how that could be, since you were only a few minutes old. And I remember you wrapping your little fingers around my big finger, and I knew I was yours, and you were mine . . .
Happy Birthday Liv . . .