By Kelly Bridgewater
How to you say goodbye to the person who handed you your first journal and encouraged your love of writing?
How to say goodbye to your number one supporter?
If someone knows the answer to this, please share with me. As of today, I still haven't figured that out yet.
Six months ago, on Halloween, I woke up to a life changing phone call. My Daddy stopped breathing, and they have been working on him for the past 45 minutes. I dashed out of bed and started getting dressed. I knew I had to get to Indy as soon as possible. I live an hour and a half away. About to walk out the door fifteen minutes later, they said he passed. My world came crashing down. I didn't know what to do. My legs became rubber, and I couldn't see because of the avalanche of tears cascading down my face.
How do I say goodbye to the man who meant so much to me?
To a man who took me to a Waldenbooks when I was seven and told me to pick out any book I wanted. I choose Dawn on the Coast, number 23 in The Baby-sitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin. Hence, started my love affair with books. Daddy and I would travel to Lafayette Square Mall every two weeks on his payday, and he would buy me a new book. Either an addition to my Baby-sitters Club series or the Sweet Valley High Series. (I still have every single book in both those series. Hard to let go!). Sometimes we traveled to Borders in Castleton, a thirty minute drive from our house. We would stop and have lunch on the way. If it was McDonalds, we would order the chicken nugget combo with fries and a diet coke. Taco Bell, it was three hard tacos with double the meat and double the cheese with no lettuce. As I got older, he realized I liked steak, so we went to Lonestar Steakhouse or Oven, a little restaurant in Avon, Indiana. Indianapolis got a store called Media Play, it didn't last long, but Daddy and I would go on a Saturday and spend hours there. There was a cafe, huge sections for books, movies, kid toys, CD's, and VHS tapes. Daddy and I loved doing these times together.
I was in honors classes in high school, so I earned good grades. I remember when Jack Frost, the movie about the snowman with came to life with Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston, came to the theaters. I was a junior in high school. I mentioned to Daddy that I wanted to see it, so he took me out of school one day, and we went to movies together. We shared a large Diet Coke and a large popcorn. It was great. When that movie came on this past Christmas, I cried.
As I got older, married, and had kids, my Daddy always knew that education, reading, and writing meant a lot to me. So when I returned to pursue my Bachelor's and Master's, my Daddy was my greatest cheerleader. He would call me every week and see how my classes went, what did I learn, and to make sure I send him copies of any essays I wrote. My Daddy had a number of binders with all my writings when I was in college and graduate school.
Because my husband and I really didn't make a lot of money, my Daddy told me to keep him in the know of any new books that I wanted. My Daddy would keep the list on his Amazon wishlist, and once a month, he would buy me a book from the list. He had it shipped to his house, wrote a note in the front, and gave it to me next time I saw him. He, still, is the only one that buys me books for Christmas and my birthday. My Daddy was an intelligent Army man who loved nonfiction. He told me once, "I never understand your fascination with reading and writing fiction. I can't get into that genre." A couple of weeks later during one of our conversations, he said, "I prayed to God to help me to understand your fascination with fiction. God showed him how fiction can reach others when the Bible and non-fiction won't. That God has a plan for me(Kelly) to use fiction for his Glory." It made me tear up. (Now too!)
My Daddy encouraged me to join ACFW and helped fund my membership the first year. He listened to me rant and rave about my first conference. He encouraged and loved when I talked about writing or books that got me flared up. It said it was nice to see and hear my passion.
When I graduated with my Bachelor's degree, my Daddy came to the ceremony. When they announced my name, my Daddy's cheers rang out above the crowd. Same thing, during my Master's ceremony, my Daddy was there and cheered me on. He always wanted me to earn a Ph.D. There is still time.
My Daddy and I had a special connection. Not to put anyone down, but my mother has a learning disablitity where she can't read, write, or comphrend things that well. She shared these traits with my brother and sister. So my Daddy and I would talk about books, movies, and other things that interest us. Our phone calls would be two to three hours long. I valued my time with him.
For the last six months, I have missed that connection. No one else in my immediate circle reads as much as me. No one asks about my writing anymore. No one asks about what I have read. I feel invisible. Like when my Daddy left, a part of my existence went with him. My passions are still my heart's desire, but there is no one to share them with.
No offense to my husband who supports me unconditionally. He doesn't read or write, so when I talk to him, he just nods, but I know he tunes me out.
So with Daddy having such an influence on who I turned out to be, how do I say goodbye?
I really don't want to.
I miss you, Daddy!!!
Until we meet again.