95: When Daddy Held My Hand

95: When Daddy Held My Hand

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

When Daddy Held My Hand

Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.

~Emily Dickinson

I vividly remember my father reaching for my hand as we crossed the street. He definitely reached for my hand. I’m certain it wasn’t the other way around, for I was far too independent at the tender age of six to need any assistance crossing the street. We lived on a wide city street, and the bus stop located right in front of our house prevented Daddy from ever enjoying the luxury of a convenient parking space. We always had to park across the street and up the block a bit. When you live in the city, someone grabbing for your hand at every intersection becomes second nature to you.

The difference this time, when I was six, is that I remember Daddy’s massive calloused hand wrapped around my delicate little fingers and never had I felt so safe. In an instant I learned how much I loved this feeling of total protection. No car, no pickup truck, no bus, not even an eighteen-wheeler could bring harm to me — not while holding Daddy’s hand.

Years later I remember Daddy reaching for my hand once again. This time we were headed into the local library where election posters bearing the names of Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford occupied every inch of available wall space. The voting booths lined one side of the auditorium, while several tables on the other side accommodated registration verification. We stood in line and inched along while Daddy held my hand and explained that he would show me exactly how to cast my vote. Daddy was determined, to say the least, and the poll attendant was none too amused when Daddy followed me into the booth, still holding my hand.

“I’m sorry, Sir, it is against the law to enter a voting booth with a registered voter preparing to cast a ballot,” the guard said. His timid tone was no match for Daddy’s drill sergeant style.

“She’s my daughter and I already know whom she wants to vote for. I just want to show her how to do it,” he bellowed. Oh, how my face turned red as I looked pleadingly at the attendant to have mercy and just allow my father to go in the booth with me.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” he pressed on. “It’s against the law. If she needs assistance I am here to help her.”

With a disgusted grunt, Daddy stepped aside.

The calendar pages turned and the next time I recall holding Daddy’s hand was several years later. I sat next to Daddy that day in the back seat of a black limousine. I felt like a princess dressed in white, with Daddy looking so handsome in his tuxedo. Just as the driver pulled into traffic, Daddy, reached over and held my hand. Once again his enormous work-worn hand wrapped around mine, instantly calming all my wedding day jitters. He never said a word to me from the time we left our house until we reached the church. But then again, he didn’t have to. The strength in his hand said it all. No matter how this giant step in my life turned out, the steadfast strength in Daddy’s grip would always be there to comfort me.

The years flew by and Daddy eventually retired. My husband and I visited frequently and often found Daddy at his workbench, working on one project or another while my mother busied herself with household chores or baking. Daddy’s health deteriorated at such a slow pace it was easy to ignore, but the last year of his life was an endless string of hospital visits with no promise of any relief or return to good health.

The last time Daddy reached for my hand was about five days before he died. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and I met him there in the emergency room. Frail and bent over in the wheelchair, with his oxygen canister resting in his lap, he looked up at me and managed a faint smile. God forbid I should detect that he was uncomfortable in any way.

I sat down in the chair beside him as we waited for the doctor. Daddy reached over and held my hand once again. Then he looked at me and said, “Whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.” For the first time in my life I didn’t believe him. I knew then that he was never going to come home from the hospital. I nodded yes and looked down so that he would not see the tears in my eyes. Soon he fell asleep in the wheelchair. He drifted in and out for a few more days and then eventually went to sleep and never woke up.

Through all the stages of my life, Daddy managed to hold my hand in one way or another. I didn’t believe him when he told me that last time that everything would be okay. But I know now that he was right. Even from heaven, he reaches out and remains an ever-present positive force in my life. Thanks, Dad, for never letting go.

~Annmarie B. Tait

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