36: Daddy to the Rescue

36: Daddy to the Rescue

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Daddy to the Rescue

To bring up a child in the way he should go,
travel that way yourself once in a while.

~Josh Billings

I was usually the first one to greet my father every afternoon when he came home from work. I would throw myself into his arms and revel in the best bear hug in the world.

But not today. Today I was hiding, buried under the covers on my twin bed in the room I shared with my sister, Kelly.

I heard Daddy come into my room and I felt him sit down on the bed next to me. “Hey, no hug for me today? What’s going on?”

I started to cry before he even finished the question. I sat upright in bed and threw off my covers. “I can’t skip!” I wailed. “Everybody in the whole first grade can skip except me!”

Daddy understood the gravity of the situation immediately, as he always did. “Oh, that’s not good. What are we going to do?”

“I’m never going back!” I cried. “Everyone made fun of me!” And they had. Even my gym teacher had said, flustered, “Who doesn’t know how to skip?”

“I’m the only one in the whole school who can’t skip,” I said. “I’m never going back!”

“I’m so sorry,” Daddy murmured, drawing me into his arms. I started crying in earnest and Daddy held me close. He talked to me softly as I cried. “It’ll be okay,” he said. “We’ll figure something out.”

When my crying subsided, Daddy and I talked. I loved first grade. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Howell. I loved my principal, Sister Mary Margaret. I loved reading and spelling and recess, and I even loved Chris Miller, the blond boy who sat next to me in the reading circle and who held my hand at recess.

I did not love gym. Gym was loud and messy and intimidating and I hated it. I much preferred to be in the classroom. Now gym class on Tuesdays had become a nightmare because I didn’t know how to skip.

Daddy came up with a solution, though: “I guess I’ll have to teach you.”

I did not notice the hesitation in Daddy’s voice as he made this decision. I didn’t even notice that he put off my lessons every day until the following Monday, the day before my next gym class. By then, I was a wreck, worrying about what I would do when my gym teacher and classmates made fun of me the next day because I still didn’t know how to skip.

After supper that Monday evening, Daddy took me out into the front yard for my first lesson in skipping. “Okay,” he said. “I guess the first thing I need to do is to watch you skip.”

“But I don’t know how!”

“Just show me what you do in gym class.”

And so I did.

After a minute of watching me struggle, Daddy said, “I guess I should show you how I do it now.” He began tentatively and finally just gave in to it. He skipped and skipped, all over our front yard and even out into the street a little, trying to show me how it was done. He yelled things as he skipped. “See how I sort of hesitate right there?”

I did not see at all.

Neighbors rode by on bicycles and waved at us. The three boys from down the street were walking past on their way to the ball field and sat down on our porch to watch Daddy and me instead. Before long, we had an audience of twelve or thirteen people.

Daddy’s form was flawless. The neighborhood boys and their dads made frequent comments about that, so I knew it was so. Everybody laughed, too, when they said these things, but Daddy was serious.

It didn’t seem to matter just how good Daddy was or how much the neighbors enjoyed his performance, I still couldn’t figure out how to skip.

“It isn’t the same as running,” Daddy said. My gym teacher had said the same thing. But Daddy added, “There’s a little hiccup in there.”

“A hiccup?”

“Yeah,” Daddy said, realizing he was on to something. Now he started skipping around the yard again, this time yelling out at odd moments, “Hiccup!” At first everyone watching just laughed harder, but soon they were all yelling “Hiccup!” with Daddy as he skipped around the yard.

I watched Daddy carefully. I started to notice the hiccup ever so slightly. I tried with all my might to see the hiccup everyone else could see.

The sun was starting to go down when Daddy said, “I have an idea.” He was sweating profusely and panting hard. “I can carry you.”

After he rested just a minute and had a nice glass of water, Daddy picked me up and put me on his back. “Ready?” he called.

“Ready!” shouted the huge audience.

“Ready!” I shouted back. I held on tightly. Daddy started skipping around the yard for maybe the hundredth time that day. Everyone standing or sitting around watching yelled “Hiccup!” in unison as Daddy’s body made a jerky hesitation.

“I feel it!” I screamed.

After just a few minutes I said, “I think I know how to do that!”

Daddy stopped dead. He looked back over his shoulder at me. “Really?”

“Really!” I said. “Can I try?”

“Of course you can.” Daddy set me down on the ground gently and I didn’t even care that half the neighborhood was in our front yard. I immediately started to move. At first, it was just an awkward sort of run. After a few seconds, though, I remembered the feel of the hiccup and I tried it. I closed my eyes a little and kept moving. Hiccup. Hiccup.

“You’re doing it!” Daddy yelled loudly. “You’re skipping!”

And I was. “I’m skipping, Daddy!” I screamed back. “Look at me!”

Everyone laughed and applauded. I was, indeed, skipping. I skipped until it was too dark to see anymore and everyone had gone home. I skipped until I was exhausted, while my dad sat on the front porch and drank sweet tea.

“You see,” Daddy said, as we walked inside hand in hand. “I told you we would figure something out.”

He had said that very thing.

What Daddy hadn’t said, and what I never knew until years later, was that he was going out of his way, risking humiliation in front of all his neighbors and friends, to teach me how to skip. He loved me that much. He would risk a lot of things for me all the rest of my life.

The next day in gym class my teacher applauded me heartily. “You learned how to skip!” she sang.

“Yes,” I said proudly. “My daddy taught me.”

~Marla H. Thurman

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