- I think the thinking that gets me in the most trouble these days is as follows: I’m leaving the office, heading to pick up the kids, and I haven’t stopped to eat lunch. I’m in a hurry, because I’ve pushed my time constraints to their absolute limit, and I know that I really have to beat it to make it to Will’s school in time . . . but I’m starving. And Chick-fil-A is there, but, bless their hearts, they are on the other side of the road, which means going up to the light, circling the building umpteen times to get through the drivethrough, then meandering back out to the light and waiting for it to change so I can get where I need to go. I love CFA . . . I feel as though their honey-roasted barbecue sauce is the stuff of dreams . . . I deduct money I spend there as “tithe” on my taxes . . . but I just cannot make it happen quickly. And where I get in trouble is with Dairy Queen. It looms on my right, easy in, easy out, no line, no tax implications . . . boom, Medium Oreo Blizzard with Chocolate Ice Cream. Lunch – Check! Convenience – Check! Blown diet – Check!
- There is some manner of debate among my friends about milkshake(s) and quality of the aformentioned CFA, and Zaxby’s. Lemme just say this – if I’m in unfamiliar territory, I will track down a CFA milkshake like that bloodhound in that Blake Shelton song . . . but, and this is an enormous, Sir-Mix-a-lot sized but, if I am anywhere near Winter Haven, there is no debate – Andy’s Igloo has the greatest milkshake in the history of the world, and I will drive up to 30 minutes to acquire one over any of the others . . .
- All of this leads to a recent conversation with the kids where I was talking about “spending local” and how Gilly and I like to shop at locally owned businesses and eat at locally owned restaurants, to which Will said “so like we should go to the Taco Bell in Winter Haven and not in Lakeland.” Good talk, son . . . good talk . . .
- I think dove season opens on Saturday and the kids and I are monumentally pumped. I also think Gilly may be monumentally pumped that she’s going to have a quiet little Saturday at home . . .
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 . . .