November 21, 2011

When I think of my childhood I often go to Okinawa where I lived with my family from 1969-1971. I was shy, little girl of four when we moved there.

I remember the ocean. I remeber the three houses where we lived. The first one was at the end of a dirt road and a cinderblock wall seperated our house from a potato field and just beyond was a hill where sugar cane grew.

There were lizards everywhere. Friday night entertainment was chasing lizards all through our house and capturing them in a glass jar. Mike and I would watch them for a while and then Dad would help us release them into the yard.

One of my strongest memories was of my dad tying my tan Hushpuppies loafers. Whenever my dad tied my shoes I felt safe. He tied them tighter and stronger than anyone.

Many of my childhood memories are dominated by my mom and sister – girls together doing girly things, going to the mall, painting our nails, styling our hair. Traci and I shared a room. She is six years younger than I am. I was like a junior mom to her.

Peppered in those memories are strong memories of my  dad.

Daddy was a soldier in the Army – a paratrooper! But he was my Daddy – he still is.

I remember going to Fort Bragg and seeing these young soldiers quake in his presence but he was my Daddy.

When I was six years old I had a purple bicycle with a white banana seat and a flowered basket. I did not know how to ride it. Dad ran along behind me a few times while I found my balance. Amoora Drive was a fairly short street that sloped down at the end. Our street formed a T with Shagbark. At the bottom of the hill on Shagbark there was a white house with two white painted lions. Daddy let me go and I had found my balance – I was soaring down Amoora Drive and soon I was facing one of those lions. We had not yet had the lesson on brakes. Somehow steering came somewhat instinctively and I veered just left of Leo and crashed in the yard. Dad came running trying not to laugh too hard. “Let’s get back on that bike.” I spent years spanning all of LaFayette Village bravely flying down hills with my hands in the air feeling like Amelia Earhart.

I learned much from Dad. My brother, Mike, was into Motorcross racing – he had a dirt bike, a Honda XR-75. When I was nine years old I wanted desperately to ride it. I straddled the  mini motorcycle in our back yard as Dad held me steady and instructed me to slowly let out the clutch. Before I knew it I was underneath the bike and stuck up against our neighbors chain link fence. I wasn’t hurt too badly – I considered crying. Dad said “get back on there, you can do it.” I got back on, I let out the clutch slowly and rode around the yard. I didn’t ride the chopper much more but I also wasn’t afraid of it.

I noticed Dad was always there to cheer me on and make me get back on when I fell. Sometimes he was quiet about it but he was always there.

When I decided to move to New York Mama was not very happy and I honestly don’t know if Dad was for it or against it. Both of my parents had left home at a young age so they couldn’t really argue with me. Traveling was in my blood. After seven months I was out of money and I didn’t have a place to live. I was standing on the corner of 54th Street and 9th Avenue having just looked at an awful apartment with the bathroom down the hall.  I called home hoping to cry to Mama. Mama and Traci had gone to the mall and Daddy picked up the phone. To this day I know that was a fateful event. Had Mama heard me crying from Hell’s Kitchen she would have jumped in her Cadillac and driven straight up I-95 and brought me back to North Carolina. Daddy listened and he heard me when I told him I didn’t think I had given myself enough time in New York and I didn’t want to kick myself in the butt for giving up too fast. Daddy told me to stay, that I could make it and I wouldn’t have to kick myself in the butt.

Seven years ago when Mama got sick, Daddy was her rock, he stood by her side through chemotherapy and through hospitalizations and oxygen tanks. I don’t even know everything he did but I know he was there for her. She told me she knew for sure that he loved her through and through.

I so often think of Mama and all that she taught me but there is Daddy, solid, quiet, steadfast. Dad and I don’t always agree on many things in this life but we sure love each other and I sure got so much of my confidence and resilience from him because he was there for me and he didn’t let me walk away from my fears.

I love you Dad!

3 Responses to “Daddy”

  1. Daddy Says:

    I love you, too, Leigh Anne. Thank you. You are just as beautiful now as when you were at 4 with a pony tail at the ocean. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving. Love to all.


  2. Traci Bracey Says:

    I love this Leigh Anne !

  3. Shauna O'Connor Says:

    What a beautiful piece of writing Leigh Anne. I was crying by the end! xo

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