Katie doesn’t have any experience with this topic—that’s why she’s opening up to all of you in hopes of learning more!
In my childhood, I learned early on that location and proximity are a bit irrelevant in building relationships. My mom’s immediate family lived about 25 minutes away from us. My father’s immediate family was about 5 hours away. Sure, we saw Mom’s side more but I never felt that because I didn’t live close to my father‘s side, I had less of a relationship with them. The thing that was constant inside all of the relationships was no matter how far away and no matter how often or not often we got together, when we were together, you knew you belonged. Even if you weren’t blood related…you were welcomed with giant arms. You were told how good it was to have you there. You were hugged by everyone. And you were included — even if you had to sit at the kids dinner table for several years, you were still included somehow.
My father was around for a handful of those experiences. He was at the “important” stuff like birthdays, holidays, and believe it or not—most every single dance recital (this will be the center of the next article, just FYI) but he couldn’t really find time for the Sunday dinners after church or the summer cookouts or when Mom and I had a spontaneous notion to go do something. But this article isn’t about when he wasn’t there, this article is actually about when he was. And I don’t mean physically there. I mean physically, mentally, and emotionally there…with us or with me. I’d like to tell you about 3 different memories I have. They might be some of my favorite memories of my father. Memories where for a split second, I remember ‘Daddy’, not ‘my father’.
Daddy was proud of his Scotch-Irish heritage and from early on, I’m lucky that both Daddy and Mom educated me on where I came from. I learned about our family name and clan, our family crest, and of course Mom made me a dress from our family tartan. One summer we went to Grandfather Mountain in Boone, NC for the Highland Games. I had to be only 3 or 4 but this is one of my earliest memories. I remember listening to live music on a hillside and Daddy was up dancing with me. I looked back and Mom was smiling from ear to ear. I remember the three of us having so much fun together.
We loved football. We had season tickets for University of Tennessee Volunteers (GBO!!!) and went to every home game for years. I have so many memories inside Neyland Stadium but my favorites with Daddy are outside the stadium. We had a bit of a ritual we did every weekend. We got down there super early, parked, walked to the bookstore to shop around, went to eat, and then made it down for when the Pride of the Southland Marching Band made their entrance to the stadium. I have never been to another college football game so I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but man—there would be a huge crowd of people lining the streets to watch the band come down, everyone cheering and singing. You could feel the energy; it was contagious. I would be sitting on Daddy’s shoulders watching all of this take place. Daddy wasn’t a super tall man, but when I was up there, I felt like I was towering over everyone. I’d make eye contact with another kid who was on their Daddy’s shoulders and we knew we had figured it out. We had the best seats in the house.
I was with Daddy one day running errands, I think? I remember him asking me if I cared if we made another stop—he had a friend who had something he wanted to show me. We drive over to his buddy’s house and the friend came outside to meet us. I remember walking through the basement door and turning a dark corner only to find an entire toy village elevated on tables with trains running throughout the whole thing. I wasn’t really into trains but my cousin was and he had a train village in his basement garage that we would play with. So, I knew what I was looking at and I knew it was crazy impressive. I stood around looking as the adults were probably talking train building logistics. That’s not the point, though. As we were leaving, Daddy was trying to get my attention to not walk into the wall, but to turn the dark corner to exit. He grabbed my shoulders, turned my body, and said, “This way, baby.” This was the one and only time I remember him calling me anything but Katie.
Even after everything that happened post these memories, I still cherish them. And even though it was rare to have the 3 of us all together, these memories remind me that quality time doesn’t always mean quantity of time. You may disagree with me on that one and that’s ok. We all come from different experiences and that’s why we have so much to learn from each other.
For me, I try to remember what quality time means. And I try to remember that in each of these memories, it was the small stuff that made the biggest impact. Not the toys, not the trips, not even the big events like my dance recitals. What mattered to me was HOW he showed up—not just that he showed up.
Writing about my father has already been a whirlwind of emotions, which I expected. This week I’m feeling rather grateful for remembering these small tokens from my childhood. I hold these memories as diamonds in the rough, I suppose — small and a little jagged, but beautiful.