Daddy’s Little Girl

It is almost Father’s Day.  The themed commercials show the perfect family.  They show a loving Daddy playing with his kids.  He never fails to hug them, smile at them, and give them a perfect little butterfly kiss. Cards with loving father sentiments are in all the stores.  Facebook is filled with saying about wonderful fathers and posts about the most perfect Daddy’s you could imagine.  I don’t have that story and I struggle with holidays like this one.

I lived with my grandparents from the time I was four. My grandfather was as far from a loving and caring father as one could be.  He was a drunk.  He was a loud, mean, scary drunk most of the time.  Occasionally, he would do a schizophrenic turn and be a happy drunk.   It didn’t happen often, but when it did, he would come home with gifts.  They ranged from bananas or chocolate to a color TV for my room and finally a car during the summer before my senior year.   I remember him giving me a bar of chocolate and telling me to take a bite.  I loved chocolate so it dove right in. When I did bite into it, it was the nastiest thing I had ever tasted. It was raw chocolate. He and Grandmother thought it was very amusing.

He was a longshoreman and worked odd hours.  He was always gone by the time I woke up.  Most nights he didn’t get home until my bedtime because he would go out drinking with the boys.  Sometimes we would have to go pick him up and get him home.  I never went to sleep until I knew he was home.  I didn’t want to be asleep if something bad happened as it often did.  During his worst drunks, Grandmother would tell me to go to my room, lock the door, and get in the closet.  I learned to “disappear” in my mind during those times.

Grandmother tried to get him sober.  She lectured him, begged him, and threatened him to no avail.  About once a year, she would have the pastor of our church come and talk to him.  Her last-ditch effort would be to send me in to talk to him.  She gave me the script before going into the room.  I was to sit on his lap and put my arms around his neck. (I refer to them as Grandmother and Grandfather here, but I had to call them Mommy and Daddy.)

“Daddy, do you love me?”  He would answer with an affirmative nod or grunt.

“Daddy, if you really loved me you would stop drinking.”  I was then to give him a kiss and my duty was complete.   Obviously, he didn’t love me enough because he never stopped drinking.

The first time I remember seeing my “real” father was when I was six years old.  Grandmother told me I was going to visit my uncle. I remember going to his house and his two very little girls. I only saw them a few times.  Grandmother told me that “Uncle Joe” was my father when I was eight, although I didn’t see him again until I was about ten.  I imagined what it would be like if I lived with him instead of my grandparents.  I often dreamed about living with someone else.  I imagined him hugging me and being ever so loving and caring. I didn’t have anything to base that on, just wishful thinking.

My father was in the Navy and he and the family moved to North Carolina.  He had duty in Charleston during that time and would come to visit me.  He actually started staying at our house a couple of weekends a month.  Why my grandmother allowed him to visit or to stay is still a mystery.  He was a very affectionate man. He doted on me while he was there.   He told me how much he loved me and how much he missed me after my mother left.  He asked me if I remembered a song he used to sing to me.  I didn’t remember much of anything as a kid.  He held me close and sang ‘Daddy’s Little Girl” to me.  I wanted that moment to last forever.  A few months later, he would leave and I would not see him again until I was sixteen years old. He and his wife and my five brothers and sisters came to my house and spent the afternoon.  I didn’t see any of them again until I was in my mid-twenties.    That, my friends, is a story for another time.

My grandmother watched the “Red Skelton Show” every week.  She made me sit with her during her favorite shows.  This show was one I liked and remembered.  One night during the show, someone (it may have Red, but I don’t remember) started talking about a special song they were going to sing. The song was “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

You’re the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold

You’re daddy’s little girl to have and to hold

A precious gem is what you are

You’re mommy’s bright and shining star

You’re the spirit of Christmas, my star on the tree

You’re the Easter Bunny to mommy and me

You’re sugar, you’re spice, you’re everything nice

And you’re daddy’s little girl

You’re the treasure I cherish, so sparkling and bright

You were touched by the holy and beautiful light

Like angels that sing, a heavenly thing

And you’re daddy’s little girl

I heard each word as the music played.  I thought of my Daddy and wondered if he really held me and sang to me when I was still such a little girl.  I wondered if he thought about me as much as I dreamed of having a Daddy who would cherish me as much as the writer of that song.   I wondered why no one loved me that much.

Once in a while, someone will sing that song, usually at a wedding.  It never fails to bring tears to my eyes and longing in my heart.  I never got the Daddy I wanted.  I tried to find something to fill that void in all the wrong ways during my life.  In time, I learned that I wasn’t the problem; I wasn’t unlovable.  Today, I fill my life with people who love me as I am.  I am still learning to love myself and to cherish the little girl who still exists inside. She will never be “Daddy’s little girl” but I hold her and tell her the angels still sing—just for her.

27 responses

  1. Very moving. I know you are so close to the subject that it may be hard to see but you are a GREAT writer. Affirmation rather than doubt. Keep doing what you are doing.

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    1. Thanks you Beth. Thanks for reading and sharing with me.

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  2. It’s heartbreaking to feel that you never had a loving dad…I can hope though that you are worthy of abundant love and that you are undoubtedly loved by many…

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    1. Thanks so much.

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  3. There isn’t anything I can say other than I am glad you are here and able to share such a story with us.

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    1. Thank you Kira.

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  4. Daddy sang and whistled until the day he died I’m sorry you did not get to be with him he was a very special man and I think of him all the time since im surrounded by wood pieces he crafted for me but my favorite memory is when Brett(my youngest) was 4 or 5 dad and him went to a yard sale and bought a 4 foot Indian he call elijah it still stands in my living room today he use to visit the Indian 2 times a year it was hilarious

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    1. Gail, I still have the cassette tape of him singing the gospel songs at the churches. I am sorry I didn’t get to know him and all of you better.
      Will see you in a couple of week with Mike.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story. I realize I was blessed to have a wonderful father and that not everyone had that pleasure.

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  6. I am kind of on the other end of this, as I want desperately to be with my daughter right now, but I can’t. Her mother has filled her head with all kinds of things, so I really don’t know where her thinking is. I do continuously write her with no response, It is hurtful. Personally, I had a step father, but he was a drug addict and we had to move frequently. We were always at odds, sometimes violently, I left the week I turned 16, dropped out of school, got a job and moved away. I never went back and the relationship to this day is a strain on me to maintain. My real father I didn’t meet until I was 25 and he got a second opportunity to reject me. He died a few years later from a heart attack brought on by drug abuse, never reconciled. I had an image in my head of him as a child too and it wasn’t even close to the reality. This hurt my heart to read in so many ways, but if you were closer I would have wrapped my arms around and just held you for a little while. I try to remind myself that sometimes “rejection is protection,” we don’t always get to know exactly what we are being protected from. Regardless of past or circumstance it was these things that formed the people that we are in one way or another, and what an opportunity for God to work in our lives. Love you!!!

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    1. I know beyond a doubt that I am who am I at this moment because of everything that has happened. Amy Grant has a song that asks God “where were you in middle of my pain ..where were you in the middle of my shame?” She answers that His Mercy if bringing her life again..He as in the middle of her pain and in the middle of her shame. I so understand that.
      I also hear your pain with your own daughter. I hope that in time she will want to find the answer about her father for herself. I lost custody of my kids for two years due to my addictions and they tried filling their heads with all kind of things. But they came back to me. Don’t give up on it.
      Thank you for the hug even thought it is virtual.
      Sending love and hugs your way

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      1. Those are both very moving accounts. Rejection is protection is a powerful idea. Thank you for that.

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  7. My father was not an alcoholic, but I do relate to his being unavailable. How sad that you did not get to live with your real father.

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  8. Le sigh.

    I’m sure the angels do sing to “that little girl”

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  9. Hi Cathy, thanks for liking “What Kind Of Man Has Eight Kids” and for following my blog. I read your post three times. It’s heartbreaking but at the same time, infused with your sense of hopefulness. Thanks for telling your story.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading. The message I want everyone to get is the one of hope.

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  10. I am not in the same boat, but I’m out there on the seas with you, Cathy. My father took off when I was 1 y.o., leaving Mom with me and my two older brothers. Though I never missed having a father (you don’t miss what you never had), all the Father’s Day stuff sort of gets to me. Now, I have a perfect father to look up to – my son.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that Karen. Yes, I have a son who is an amazing father. I love seeing him with his kids.

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  11. Cathy, what a sad story, it made me tuck a tear. I’m sorry you had such a rough life. My Daddy was one of those dream daddies but he was buried on my 14th birthday. I was blessed to have him as long as I did.

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  12. Hi Cathy, I’ve been away working on self-publishing my memoir after a long journey. Your Father’s day piece was touching. Many of us carry pain from childhood like an invisible twin.

    When I read the words to “Daddy’s Little Girl” and their importance to your memoir, I knew I must share my experience. I, too, had words from a song in my memoir. Actually, it was the final chapter, the end of my story. I later learned you had to get copyright permission to use “anything” other than the title. These words are not free.

    I explain my experience with the music industry in my post from April 6th, and June 13th. Please check them out. Long story short, I had to rewrite the final chapter in my memoir, which was difficult and disheartening. I wish someone would have told me sooner. Much success in the future. 🙂

    Nancy MacMillan @ http://blogofavetswife.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for that advise. I read something else about that as well. Sounds like getting that permission can be a challenge. I think I am going to opt to leave it out of my manuscript.
      C

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  13. Wow…those feelings hit home and bring back lots of memory of my childhood. Tear…Tear…I too cry when I hear “Daddy’s Little Girl”.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Brenda

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  14. “memories”

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  15. Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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