His morning coffee steamed from his favorite mug It was too hot to drink so he stared off into space for a few minutes. He remembered the day the mug was given to him. It was 25 years ago on a lazy Sunday morning in the middle of June. His daughter, Christine, tip toed into kitchen with it behind her back. Her hero was standing at the sink about to cook her those eggs she loved. Something about the way he cooked them, he was the only one with the secret formula. His wife had tried to make them on many occasions, but to Christine “they just don’t taste the same.” Kids are funny that way. The eggs were nothing special, just omelet style with a pinch of salt. He liked to put on a little music while he cooked so he didn’t hear her footsteps. Her neck strained as she looked up at this giant of a man. He stood only 6’2” but to this little 3 year old girl he was the biggest human on this planet. As she got closer he knew she was there, but he ignored her as best he could because he wanted her to be able to “surprise” him. She tugged on his old beat up Minnesota Twins sweatpants. He continued to ignore her, so she pulled again and again, finally just as he turned to see what was happening she screamed “Happy Fathers Day, Dad”. He picked up this little girl and swung her around and just as she started to swing her hand lost it’s grip on the present she was holding. The giant put her down quickly and they both rushed to the box. His little angel already had tears in her eyes. Luckily, Mom had done a good job wrapping and protecting the gift. Almost as if she knew this little 3 year old and her Dad could not be trusted to handle it with care. He placed her on his knee as they sat on the kitchen floor. He told her whatever it is, even if it’s broken he promised this would forever be his favorite gift. She helped him unwrap it as her tears began to dry up. She ripped one side of the Styrofoam so she could get to the gift. She examined it, nothing was broken, so she handed it to her hero and again said “Happy Fathers Day, I love you”. His eyes began to get a little wet. It was a mug with a picture of them together and it said “My Dad, my hero, my best friend”. His wife was ready with a tissue, but before she could get it to him the little girl took her tiny little pointer finger and wiped the tear that was falling from his left eye.
It was at that exact moment he knew what why he was put on this earth. For he understood this was the person who gave him life. It wasn’t when she was born, it wasn’t her first birthday, or some other random time. It was that day, that moment. For him, it took him a long time to trust and love others. He didn’t grow up with love, He didn’t have fathers days and birthday parties and all the things that most kids get to have. He was in and out of foster homes from as early as he can remember until he joined the marines at 18 years old. He had to fight his whole life to get anything. And when he got it, he had to be able to protect it. He grew up sleeping with one eye open. The abuse he received was constant, both mental and physical. This man’s life was complicated in ways most could not understand. What he saw as a kid was multiplied by what he saw in war. When he was deployed to Iraq he did not have a send off party. No one really knew or cared that he was gone. And when he returned from his 8th year in service, having served almost half of that time fighting in a war, he did not have a welcoming committee.
So, he did what he had always done. He kept moving forward. He opened up a mechanic shop and took what he had learned in the service with him. He was polite to his customers, open and honest with them. He worked hard, because he really didn’t have anything else in his life. He had dabbled a little in drugs at a young age to help cope with all he was going thru, but his time in the marines actually helped him understand his circumstances and he learned that hiding wasn’t helping.
One day a beautiful woman came into his shop and asked him out on date. He was a bit shocked with how forward she was, but of course he agreed. There was something about this girl, something said to him, even though he was used to pushing people away who got close to give this girl a shot. They ate and walked the neighborhood on a gorgeous September night. He knew that night if he wanted a chance to see this thru he would have to let her in to his world. So, he spilled his guts. He talked about EVERYTHING. Most of which would scare anyway away, but she stayed, even though she didn’t know why. They both weren’t looking for a love story, but they found one.
They would marry and his hard demeanor would begin to soften. For around her, he could be emotional. He could speak about his feelings, he could show love and he would accept love. They quickly got pregnant which petrified this man. Sure, he loved his wife, but being trusted with a child was an entirely different thing to him. When she was born, he didn’t cry. He was militant around her, changing her diaper, and feeding her, but never really connecting. He was too scared to let her into his world. He didn’t want to show her his pain.
But all of that changed on the kitchen floor some 25 years ago. He fell completely in love with this perfect little human. As she wipe his tear he knew it was his job to protect her. It was his job to be her hero. To show her what his wife showed him on that first date.
He put his morning coffee up to his lips and was able to take a sip. He slowly came back to reality and brushed his hands thru his salt and pepper hair. He buttoned his shirt and began to tie his tie, he placed his cufflinks on that his he had been given by his not so little girls boyfriend as a gift for his last birthday. He had called and asked to speak with him that day long before the dinner they all had planned later on for his birthday.
He knew what this visit was all about, but he kept it quiet and told him to come over at 10 am. No one would be home and he wanted it to be that way. They sat at the kitchen table and the boy became to speak about his love of Christine. He spoke about all the things he respected about her, about how he would love to join this family if this man would give him permission. He spoke about how she was raised and how all he wanted to do was be half the man her father was. He mentioned how it was his turn to take care of Christine. The man had dreaded this day from the second he met this young man almost five years ago. He could see in his eyes that this was going to be his daughters person. Of course he gave his blessings, they hugged and later that evening, on his birthday he got to his world get engaged to be married.
He finished his cup of coffee and put on his suit jacket. He heard his wife from the other room say she was ready. He slowly opened the door and saw his wife in a beautiful red dress. He knew that even though she shopped for a dress for months for this occasion that whatever style would be chosen that red would be the color. That was his favorite color on her.
He opened the car door for his wife and as he walked to the drivers side of the car he looked up at the beautiful sun shining and he felt one tear streaming from his left eye. He was about to watch his world get married to her best friend and he knew that all he had been through was worth it just for this day. He would give anything to go back to that kitchen floor, sitting their discovering what life was all about. All the places he had seen, all the hurt he had endured meant nothing to the joy he would experience walking his little girl down the aisle. Life, he thought, was good….