My father, now 80 and fighting cancer, has always seemed fearless to me. Always in control, always sure of his decisions. He was, after all, a USAF fighter pilot. A TEST fighter pilot. Those are the guys who raise their hands when the CO says, “Don’t know if this newest fighter will hold together at mach 1500. Who wants to give it a whirl?” (I know jets don’t fly that fast. Just making a point.)
Anyway, this fearless, “stare ’em down until they blink first” man apparently met his match with his four-year-old daughter — me. Let me take you back.
I am the oldest, and the only girl. In my memory of that late summer afternoon, Mom is not home, so Dad is in charge of said girl. I am playing in the backyard, running from bush to tree, apparently trying to elude an imaginary villain (or some such).
Dad has been left with instructions to make sure I have a bath before supper. So, being a dutiful husband, he calls from the backdoor for me to come in.
I can’t. Not yet. I’m still hiding, still running. My imaginary life is much more real than the one which involves a father getting more frustrated by the minute as he watches me zigzag across the backyard.
“It’s time to come in!” he calls again and this time, steps out into the yard. “Now!”
I’m not listening. I’m much too busy.
Before I know it, he’s grabbed me by the arm and marched me into the house.
Okay. Now he has my attention.
We walk into the bathroom, his jaws flexing in his irritation at my lack of obedience, his face that flushed red I later become all too familiar with. With a quick twist of the wrist, he has water filling the tub. Before it gets too deep, he picks me up and sets me in it, play clothes, sneakers and all.
I remember watching the water turn my sneakers a darker shade, and staring at my now soggy jeans. Mommy never did it this way. Turning my head, I stare at him, my question of his sanity shooting from my button brown eyes.
I don’t remember what happened next, but I have a feeling Mom never found out.