When I was a little girl there were four little words that could make me stop doing anything-- be it playing with my Barbies, messing with my Colorfroms, or interfere with my obsession over Rainbow Brite and her never-ending battle with Murky and Lurky. I'd jump as if struck by lighting, a huge smile sweeping across my lips, and run full-tilt in the direction of the words.
Those magical words? I need a hug!!!
The bellower? My father, who was normally reclined on our very 70's-ish brown couch while watching a game on the telly.
Thinking back, I realize now it was hardly ever during commercial break that he'd beckon me. It would be the middle of an inning, bases loaded, Mattingly at home plate, and the game hinging upon him whacking a homerun out of the ballpark or the fourth quarter of an away game that was down to the wire, the Jets with the ball hoping to make it down the field in under 60 seconds.
Despite all the insanity of the game and his passion for it, my dad would call out my name and I'd come running, fling myself into his arms, and receive the world's biggest squeezy hug-- the most important hug of all time. Then I'd settle down next to him and yell until I was hoarse, lending my enthusiasm and my passion to my father. I'd cross my fingers so hard, hex the other team with boos and jeers, and get swept up in the moment along side him.
It's strange how it took him getting ill for me to remember all this. Such a simple act, yet oh so very telling. In his moments of need, he'd call out to me. And not just his need for someone to give him a hug, to show him they loved him, but when the game was on the line, all the cards stacked against him, my dad knew who he needed most-- his little girl.
As the years flashed by and our family warped and shifted things have changed between us, as they are bound to do. Life isn't always the friendliest of people and sometimes he likes to throw road blocks in our way and misdirect us with all sorts of shenanigans. And yet, through it all, every wrong turn, dead end, and pot hole, one thing has remained, I will forever and always be on my dad's team. I will always answer the call.
Because despite the turbulent teen years or the hurt and pain of growing up and realizing your parents are all too human, I never ever stopped needing him, his passion for life, his wonderment at the little things, and his love for me. And now, when he's called out to me from his hospital bed, I cannot help but drop everything and give him a hug.
If I could write a story-- a story worth reading, a story that could change lives-- I'd pour into it my love for my father and every thing he taught me. It wouldn't be perfect, because my dad and I, we are far from it and our tale has been messy along the way-- the big kind of messy that makes you cringe and you think will never get fixed and might just need to be tossed. But the ending would be a thing of beauty, one for the record books, one full of hope, love, and, most importantly, squeezy hugs.