I remember watching a movie once, I can’t remember the name, but there was a scene when the characters asked each other what their best and worst days were. My best days, October 28, 1996 and September 29, 1998. These two days brought me more joy than I could ever imagine or deserve. These are the days my children were born. What a miracle to see your children come into this world. This small, reddish wrinkled skinned tiny little person was now here. I remember the day my son was born like it was yesterday. I remember the entire 12 hours his mother was in labor. I remember sitting in a room still trying to decide what we were going to name him, but what I remember the most was the realization that we were taking him home with us. I don’t know why that took me by surprise when the nurse came in and told us when we would be leaving, but it did. We were now parents, we now have a child that is 100% dependent on his mother and I. That same realization does not leave you when your second child is born. The day my daughter was born I had the same joyous feeling in my heart, but there was something a little different, this was my daughter. As much as every parent denies it, there is a different set of rules, a different way of trying to look at her world through your eyes. You feel like your son will learn how to handle and defend himself, he is going to be a man one day, and men are strong and courageous. I am in no way saying that women are not strong or courageous, but this was my little girl. In my eyes, she was this small fragile flower that was going to need her father’s protection and guidance for her entire life. My son has grown into what I call a fine young man. He has learned to handle situations and take care of them on his own. He has such a loving, caring and giving heart, it is a part of his nature, that is who he is. I am very proud of who he has become and what he has accomplished. I am most proud of his determination to follow his dreams. Now Lindsay, she was my girl, the one I thought would forever need my support and guidance. It was my job to be standing at the door when her first date arrived to intimidate the young man. Little did I know, it was not me he would be intimidated by, it was my 5 foot 10 inch, “I really don’t need you in my life dude”, little girl. Somewhere, somehow and right in front of my eyes, this fragile little flower had grown into a strong, self-confident, resolute, unyielding young woman. She had a passion for life and living it her way, and I was proud. My only worry now was how long was she going to need her dad, her old man, the bothersome long arm of the law that did not let her do everything she wanted to do. As the days and years pass and your children grow, the roles somehow reverse. They become your source of strength, support and guidance.
These are my children, and they are my best days.
Now, I have had what I thought were my worst days, and some were pretty bad, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt my worst day was August 28th, 2016. Not only is a dad supposed to protect and provide for his children, his job also includes fixing everything. Bicycles, flat tires, dolls with their heads and arms pulled off, games, science projects and even broken hearts. It is the most helpless feeling in the world when you walk into a hospital room and your daughter is lying there so still, tubes and wires everywhere. All you want to do is reach down and fix her, make it all better, scoop her up and take her home where she is supposed to be, debating the latest political issue with you at dinner. It is a feeling that makes you feel less of a man, less of a father. Why can’t I fix her, why can’t I tell her to get up, why is she not giving me that look of “You have no clue Dad.” Not only is it the most helpless feeling in the world, you feel lost. You don’t know what to do, where to go or what to say. Do I climb into bed and never climb out, do I dive into a bottle and try to drown all this hurt and pain? Do I just give up on life and wander aimlessly hoping, praying that something, someone will pull me back from this devastation? As a man you have to be strong, you have to push all those thoughts out of your mind. You are the leader, the one who takes charge. But as a dad, you are one who fixes everything and I could not fix Lindsay, I could not fix her. It took the grace of God and my entire family to start the mending of my shattered heart. Is it mending? Yes. Will it ever be whole again? Maybe. Will it ever be normal again? Never, and here’s why…It’s a thousand little things that take you back there.
It’s a thousand little things that take you back to a place that you don’t want to be, but in some crazy, unexplainable way, you’re glad you’re there. They grab you by surprise and then you have to stop for a minute and breathe. Stop and try to find the joy and the happiness that once filled that particular memory. Most of the time I find myself smiling through the tears because I see her laughing or giving me the look like I have no idea what I am talking about. Don’t misunderstand, the big things like birthdays, holidays, graduations, proms and weddings are heart wrenching, but they don’t happen on a daily basis. You have time to prepare for these days, mentally and emotionally. For me it’s a Beyoncé song that catches your ear as you are eating dinner in a restaurant. It’s the cell phone bill that the data usage is not pushing the limit. It’s a white Toyota Corolla with a young lady driving and music blasting out of the windows. It’s when I hear someone say “What’s for dinner?” That was the first thing she would say when she walked through the door from school. When I hear a cabinet or microwave door slam shut. When I see an elephant walking on TV or at a zoo. Let me explain that one. When Lindsay walked she would shake the entire house and I always said to her “Girl, you walk as loud as an elephant.” When I walk past Forever 21 in the mall and see a young girl browsing through the piles of jewelry like they were real diamonds. Every time I pass an Insomnia Cookie store. Oh, did that girl love Insomnia Cookies. It’s when I am sitting at home and I can see a beautiful sunset through the front doors. She would come running down the stairs with her camera in her hand to capture it. It’s the text messages you go back and read over and over again hoping to find one you haven’t read. The Instagram post you had no idea she posted where she said something nice about you.
It’s the thousands of pictures that are on her phone that you look at every day trying to find that one little thing that you missed the day before. When I am looking through the channel guide on the television and I see “Say Yes to The Dress” or “Love and Hip Hop.” I can see her so vividly watching those shows, all 5’10” curled up in a chair, wrapped in her fuzzy pink blanket, a half empty bottle of water and an empty paper plate sitting on the end table. Sometimes Heather, her best friend, would be stretched out on the couch saying “Hello Bradford.” I try not to see all the crumbs Lindsay would leave behind. When I see this in my mind’s eye I smile before a tear or two runs down my cheek. It’s the drawer you open and are surprised to find a bobby bin, a brush, or a hair band. A picture you stuck in the back of a drawer thinking “I will put that in a frame someday.” It’s the day after your birthday and you go to put all your cards in the “card safe” and there is one peeking out from the bottom that say’s “Happy Birthday Daddy.” It’s a lady bug crawling ever so slowly on my truck, flying away when I try to catch it. It’s a butterfly fluttering with the flow of the breeze never knowing which way it will go. It’s the portfolio you open looking for some important papers and find a drawing she did for Father’s Day. It’s the socks I put on every day when I go to work. Her last Father’s Day gift to me was a “sock bouquet,” I thought that was most ingenious. When I hear or see and ambulance flying down the road with its lights flashing and sirens wailing. Every day, when I pull out of my neighborhood and look at that spot, the spot where her car was sitting. The list grows every day because, there are always little things.
I am not going to lie to you and say I have no regret because I do, there is always regret. One of the few regrets I have is telling her no and not letting her do everything she wanted to do. As her father, I was trying to teach her life lessons never realizing her life would be so short. Regret, to me, is thinking back and saying “what if, why didn’t I, if only I had.” I only have a few of those in my memory and they are between me and Lindsay and I know, one day, we will work them out. One of the “Big” little things that has helped me throughout the past 10 plus months is knowing we had a good, healthy relationship. The reason I touched on regret was so I could say this, pick up the phone, send a text, get in the car, or look at the person sitting right beside you. Be kind, be nice, be respectful and always love one another. Because you never know if the day may come when you will be thinking of “A Thousand Little Things.”