I miss my father, and his musical pockets

·6 min read
Kristin and her father in Detroit, circa 1965.
Kristin and her father in Detroit, circa 1965.

I miss my papa.

I want him to be here today, holding my hand. Smiling his easy smile. Sitting beside me on our front porch, listening to the Tiger’s game on the radio. I want him to be alive again.

I know, I know: his ethereal presence moves around and within me every single day, and for that I am deeply grateful. I get all that, I really do. But sometimes, I just want to reach for his hand and feel his Father Bear paw cover my Little Bear paw again.

I miss my father, today and every day

Sometimes, like today, I think back to my little-girl self and remember how good it felt just stick my hand out and know that my father would find it, no matter what he was doing or how busy he was. Lordy, do I miss my papa’s paw.

I will remember my father today. I’ll look at our hand-holding photo. I might even take it out of the frame, just so I can run my fingers across his face, and I’ll remember how his lightning-quick hand squeezes always sent me this silent, steady signal: everything’s gonna be okay.

I’ll remember how he taught me, by showing me with his own actions, how to be kind, loving, and respectful to everyone, at all times.

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I’ll remember the sounds his pockets made –– that joyful, jingling-change sound. (It took me years to realize that it wasn’t his pockets that were making that sound, but his fingers inside the pocket, jingling all those coins. But guess what? I’m back to believing that my father’s pockets really were musical, just because this memory belongs to me, and just because the memory makes me so darned happy.) So, on this day, I stake this joyous claim: my papa’s pockets were musical.

My father was a quiet man. He was cool, composed, and very, very kind (though a single sideways glance or disapproving smirk was enough to stop you in your tracks). He rained down his love on us in a quiet, steady shower. That’s a lot of love, given that he and my mother raised seven of us. His love for me –– for all of us –– was as bright as a bowl of lemons; never did I not feel loved.

If you are missing your father today as much as I am missing mine, let’s do this one thing together: let’s count ourselves lucky that we have these men to miss. Let’s receive it as a blessing that they existed at all; that they once lived and breathed and moved about in this world. Because they did then, we do now. Let’s let that knowledge lift us up.

To the brand-new (or sort-of new) fathers who are celebrating Father’s Day today: thank you for being there for your child or children. Love them fiercely. Reach out for their little hands as often as you can; find their little mitts and cover them up with your big bear paws. Let your hand-squeezes send the unspoken message to your cubs that everything’s gonna be okay. Our children need to know that today.

Teach your children to love deeply by loving them deeply. Show them, through your own actions, that being kind in this unkind world will actually change things. Teach them that love begets love.

To those of you who might be grappling with not-so-great paternal memories, or with a bitterness that still bites, be gentle with yourselves today. Be gentle with the memories that you decide to call up today. Maybe even try to swim towards forgiveness; it’s a hard place to get to sometimes, but it sure feels good once you arrive. Maybe let today be the day this forgiveness journey begins. Baby steps. Baby strokes.

I think what I loved most about my father was how safe he made me feel. Sure, I knew that there were monsters that lived under our basement steps, but I also knew that my father could brush those things away like cobwebs. Daddy was a great dispeller of darkness.

I remember one of the first times I ever felt the sensation of fear: I was still in diapers, and my father had just returned from a fishing trip. As he held that big thing up in front of me, my little heart felt its first clutch of fear and panic; the fish was as tall as I was, and I wanted nothing to do with it. (Plus, it smelled funny.)

But with Daddy close, I was certain no harm would come to me. With Daddy close, I knew this scaly monster with the shiny skin wouldn’t eat me up or try to start some nonsense. Even today, as I look at that big fish picture of the two of us (well, the three of us, if you count the fish), my heart takes a little flip of fear.

My father was a source of safety

Then, I let my eyes travel across the photo towards my father, standing there so sure and steady beside me … and my fear dissolves. I love looking at this photo because it reminds me of everything that my father was: my powerful protector who caught big fish for his family.

Kristin, her father, and a very large, just-caught fish
Kristin, her father, and a very large, just-caught fish

Another image that keeps popping into my mind today is the photo of George Floyd’s little daughter Gianna, sitting on the Oval Office couch with her family on the anniversary of her father’s death –– no, let me crystallize this descriptor –– his brutal murder, last month. My heart breaks for her. Her father is gone forever. She’ll never feel his hand-squeeze again. She’ll never again feel the safety that his special papa-proximity provided.

But perhaps she will grow up knowing that her father’s murder changed the trajectory of this nation and forced us to focus on finding a kinder, saner, more compassionate way to live. My prayer is that she will grow up knowing that her father’s murder was not in vain. We cannot let it be.

On this day and every day, I miss my father something fierce. I also lament the trauma and the potential for trauma that Black fathers, Black men, and Black boys must withstand every time they step outside or walk down the street. I hate that they are being snatched away from us. We need them here.

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Today I will remember my father. I’ll remember the feeling of his big paw covering my little brown mitt. And I will remember another memory, too.

Shhh. I hear it now, there in the distance, growing louder.

It’s the sound of his musical pockets.

Kristin Clark Taylor is an author, editor, and journalist. She is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. Kristin can be reached at WriterKristinTaylor@gmail.com

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: We must honor fathers, especially the ones who aren't here today.

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