I was about 4 years old. Sitting on a tabletop. My head was full of black curls.
My father was so thin and so young. So very Grease and West Side Story. Hair always slicked back in those photos. White t-shirt and jeans. He was just so young. Although, I never thought of him being young then. He's always been old to me. Not old, like silver fox with a cane old. But old, like when I get old, I wanna drive a truck like my dad's.
But when I was 4, he was only 25.
He still had his buddies that he hung out with. He still loved his stock cars. He still had these thick gorgeous sideburns that hugged either side of his face.
I'm certain he wasn't ready to be a father. And I'm even more certain he wasn't keen on the idea of letting go of all his rowdy ways and...gasp...raising a girl.
But I have a terrible memory. I do. My early years, especially, completely escape me. And visual memories, in particular, are so out of reach for me. And I hate that I can't seem to retain them, and that there are so many others I know who can rattle off what they were wearing, where they were, and what the weather was like as if it had just happened. I know that years from now I'll be begging and praying to recall something tangible. To remember specifics. Something I can hold onto. Some key piece of advice he gave me when I was growing up. Some major life lesson.
And there are some days when I float in and out of those memories. When a song or a sound or a smell takes me there, but just for a moment, just long enough to put the lump in my throat. Just enough for me to know it's there, somewhere, I just can't seem to bring them to the surface. Yet.
But my Daddy is the smell of rain. The sight of cactus. The line of old sweat inside a ballcap. He's the sound of diesel trucks. The Blue Angles. Deer crossing our path. He's the roaring of race cars. The smell of refineries. The monster truck competition commercials. He's the smell of fishing. And BBQ'ing. He's the sound of chicharras in the morning, sitting on the back porch, having his coffee. My Daddy is the smell of gun powder. The hums of lawnmowers. The nostril-burning smell of welding. He is oleanders. And fresh cut grass. He is every old man watering his front lawn.
My Daddy turned 60 last year. And the kids and I spent the greatest week back home with him, just hanging out with Grampa, doing a lot of nothing that was filled with so much something that the briefest recollection of that trip sends me into missing tears. And, suddenly, I don't think of him as old anymore. And I want him to take me camping again along the Frio. And I want him to take me to Astroworld and Six Flags. And I want to go hunting. And I want a turkey leg and a funnel cake and peanuts in my Coke.
And suddenly I'm hating living so far away and want to be able to have breakfast with him every Sunday. "Hi, mija," he'll say, when I show up and try to switch out his thick maple syrup for light agave nectar. And I want that so much for the kiddos. For him. And for me.