We just got back from 7 weeks in Florida… staying in our RV. One day, about a month ago, as I was laying by the pool… a Daddy and his Daughter, about 9 or 10 years old, were splashing and playing in the water. “Daddy, can I jump off your shoulders… Daddy, watch me swim under water… Daddy, count how long I can hold my breath…” on and on they had fun hanging out together in the water. I couldn’t help it… as I listened to them… tears started running down my cheeks… from memories past… from knowing how much Bryan misses his Daughter and that interaction… that fun… that laughter… that Father/Daughter bond.
A few weeks later as I sat on the beach… looking at Facebook… my niece posted an article from the Lufkin Daily News. Gary Stallard, whom I have always enjoyed reading his articles, wrote about his Daughter. Unfortunately he is also a member of this “club” that no one wants to be a member of. It has been two years since he lost his precious one…his Jordan. He recalls a memory of them going to a concert one year before her death. He thanks God for those memories… because that helps pull him through…but it has now been “Just long enough to prove to me I’ll never get over her being gone.”
Yes Gary… thank you God for the memories…. but it doesn’t take away the pain… your pain… or ours.
I know Bryan suffers her loss in silence… more than he lets anyone know.
I’m sorry Gary… it doesn’t get better…maybe less raw… but… time doesn’t heal our kind of wound.
STALLARD: I’m glad I let her slide in the mud
I really didn’t want to go to that concert in the first place. I sure wasn’t planning on a mud slide.
Nope. This night’s commitment went way back — back to when the band broke up — and she wasn’t going to let me out of it.
Blink-182 had been one of her favorite bands for years. When the band broke up, Jordan cried. She was crushed that she’d never seen them in concert. In an effort to mend her broken, teen-aged heart, I promised if they ever toured again, we’d find a way to go.
It may or may not have been an empty promise on my part, but she wasn’t taking any chances. She broke out the sacred “pinky swear,” and I was forever bound to that.
When I heard the band had reunited and was touring — and would make a stop in Houston — I bought two tickets. Again, I planned to let Jordan invite a friend.
She invoked the pinky swear clause, and I was stuck.
I missed the three opening acts while standing in line — in the rain — buying her T-shirts. She loved every band, of course, and since this was a special occasion, I bought her one of each. When I finally joined her on the lawn inside, the cold rain had created a quagmire. I was already pre-writing her excuse for missing school from getting sick.
I spent the next two hours bouncing in the mud with her. She wouldn’t let me sit; oh, no. She needed a dance partner, and it didn’t matter that he was old. She held my hand, we bounced, and my knees promised me I’d pay the next day.
Then it came time to leave, and some other kids started a mud slide. Naturally, Jordan wanted to do it with them. I had visions of my poor truck covered with slime, but this was our night. I couldn’t possibly say no. When she finished, I could see little more than eyeballs and teeth. The child had been happily slimed, and my truck would follow.
I’m glad she did it. I still have the image of that muddy, beaming face riding home from the concert. She never stopped talking, bouncing or singing all the way back.
This week marks three years since that concert; this month will make two years since we lost my kid. Two years. Just long enough to prove to me I’ll never get over her being gone. I’m okay most of the time, but then I’ll hear a song, or smell someone wearing the same lotion she wore, or hear a giggle that sounds like hers, and it’s like getting gut punched. My knees crater, and I have to find somewhere quiet to gather myself.
It’s during these times I make a desperate grab for the image of her and that mud slide. Those memories — and thank God I have a lot of them — get me through. Memories of the late nights watching scary movies together when everyone else was asleep. The purple hair dye I let her and her sister Jaime put on my head while walking through the mall. Letting her blast her music as loud as she wanted on road trips, and trying to sing — or “screamo” — along with her. Standing outside dressing rooms while she tried on clothes just because she wanted me there — and trying to ignore the strange looks I got from passersby.
Things I’m sure normal people don’t do; but then again, Jordan wasn’t exactly normal, as anyone who knew her can attest.
Lately, when I hear parents complaining about something a child wants Mom or Dad to do, I want to beg them: Do it. Let them get muddy. Let them get loud. Let them be weird. Get loud, muddy and weird with them.
And then I pray that if they do, it won’t be for the same reasons I needed those things. I pray it will be one of those awesome “Remember when?” memories they’ll laugh about later. A daughter telling her own children how her mom or daddy once jumped up and down in the rain at a punk-rock concert and laughed while she slid down a muddy hill.
Dirt washes off. Thank God, memories don’t.
Gary Stallard’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.