There is no doubt in my mind that I was daddy’s little girl. I was “Peachy Poo” and my father spent many days making me feel special, making me know I was loved. As a little girl, I loved when my father tucked me in. He did not read me Dr. Seuss like my mother did; he invented stories with princesses, fairies, and bears. He would tickle me until it hurt. He would cuddle me when I scraped my knee. After school, I did not want to go anywhere but into his makeshift frame shop in the garage and spend time talking with him about our days. In the evenings, I looked forward to a big glass of milk and the plate of Oreos we would share. Yes, my father and I had a very special relationship, and I always knew that he would do anything for me, well, at least until high school.
Every Spring, my high school hosted a father/daughter dance. It was a way for the fathers to mingle, and it was a way to celebrate the relationship between fathers and daughters.
“Dad, can we go to the father/daughter dance?”
“You know I don’t dance.”
“Then let’s just go for the punch and the cookies,” I would counter.
“It’s on a Sunday; that’s my only day off all week,” he would recounter.
“My friends and their fathers are all going.” I always hoped the “guilt trump card” would work.
“I don’t know your friends’ fathers,” he would then say. True, I thought, because we never go to the father/daughter dance. How do you expect to meet anyone if you do not try to socialize?
“Please!” My final attempt to convince him, I always ended up grovelling.
“Maybe next year,” he would say.
Every year it was the same conversation, and every year, the Monday after the father/daughter dance, I would sit in the cafeteria fighting back tears listening to my friends talk about how much fun they had at the dance.
Junior year, I approached him again and we had the same exchange, except he added something new. ”I promise, Honey, next year we will go.”
“Really Dad?” I couldn’t believe it.
“Really,” he said. I was elated. I had only one year to wait. In one year I would experience the dance that my friends had been experiencing for years. It was perfectly acceptable to me that I would only attend once. My friends went every year; they took it for granted. The night with my father was going to special, I knew it.
A year went by and Spring came at last. Each month that past, the anticipation grew. Finally, three weeks before the dance, I approached my father again.
“Dad, the father/daughter dance is in three weeks. Do you need to get a new tie or anything?”
“Honey, you know I don’t dance,” he said like all the other years.
I cut him off before we replayed the same conversation yet again. “Dad, last year you promised that we would go this year.”
“Yes, you did.”
We were sitting at the kitchen table. He lit a cigarette and took a long drag, trying to recollect our conversation, I presume.
“I don’t remember promising, Honey. I really don’t want to go.”
I was deflated. I had enough. I had my hopes up for an entire year. I built this magical night up in my head: I pictured us dancing, standing around the punch bowl with the other fathers and daughters, getting our picture taken by the photographer. Everything I had dreamed was just that, a dream; it wasn’t going to happen. My own father would not accept my invitation to a dance.
“Okay, Dad.” I stood up from the table and walked away. I did not let on how disappointed I was; however, if he would have walked into my room a few minutes later, the wetness of my pillow would have given it all away.
I swore that day that when I had children, I would do everything in my power not to disappoint them. However, sometimes disappointment is a part of life.
Carson and Tom are buddies. Tom used to think his life would not be complete without a son, and then Carson grew up a little. Somewhere around five years old, he realized she liked to watch sports with him– baseball, football, soccer– as long as she was with her dad, she liked it. She took a particular liking to IndyCar racing. She loved to watch Danica Patrick, and she loved Tom’s stories about how a girl can be anything she wants in life. She does not have to let being a female stand in her way; Danica was proof.
One Sunday while cheering on Danica together, Tom looked over at his daughter who was enthralled in the race. He was so excited to have a fellow fan, a racing confidante, he said to her, “Honey, I am going to take you to the Indy 500 someday. I want you to see Danica Patrick race live.” She lit up. He had ignited in her a dream: a dream of sitting in the stands with her father; a dream of watching Danica Patrick be the first woman to win in Indianapolis. Every week, they watched, and every week she knew she was that much closer to attending the Indy 500 with her dad.
Somewhere in 2008, we realized that in two years, the Indy 500 would be raced on her tenth birthday. We both discussed how this would be such an amazing present for her. Tom told her they would go.
“In two years, Carson, the Indy 500 will take place on your birthday. Do you think we should go?”
She ran into his arms and hugged him so hard I think he stopped breathing. Her dream was now becoming a reality. She had a date in her head: May 30, 2010, and it was going to be the best day of her life, she knew it.
But it wasn’t. That winter our furnace had to be replaced; the stove had to be replaced, and the hot water tank had to be replaced. All of our discretionary income went into household repairs. Two months before the race, we had to deliver the news.
“Carson, Daddy can’t take you to the Indy 500 this year. We don’t have the money, but I promise Daddy will take you to another race,” I told her. And because she is the kid she is, she did not let on that she was disappointed. Actually, she put a completely positive spin on the day.
“That’s okay, Mom. We will still watch it together and root for Danica.” She smiled. I wanted to cry. I thought of how much it hurt on the inside when a promise was broken. I thought about my own disappointment, and realized I had broken my own promise to myself– I had caused my daughter to be letdown. My heart broke for her, and I knew I wanted to make it up to her, somehow, someway.
Two years have passed. Within that time, they still have spent all of their Sundays together watching sports. Tom got her addicted to NASCAR, as well. She likes that they are real cars, and she likes that her sport’s hero, Danica Patrick, is trying to break into this type of racing as well. Of course, she roots for Tony Stewart because Tom does. They share peanuts and popcorn and talk about drivers and courses. Sometimes, I have to leave the room because I get so bored with their conversation.
Three weeks ago, Tom realized that the Michigan 400 was the last day of his staycation. As much as money is still tight, he said to me, “I want to take Car to the race. We can drive up in the morning and come home the same day. I will pack a cooler full of food to save some money, but I really want to take her.”
I did not need convincing. This date was way past due. I didn’t care if he had to take money out of savings to take his little girl to the race; they were going.
“Get on the computer right now and buy tickets,” I told him.
This morning, they left the house at 6:30. They had a cooler full of ham sandwiches, watermelon, cookies, and water. She had on her favorite t-shirt: “I’m a 14 fan because my dad is.”