Despite being a funny looking, gangly slip of a girl, my dad made me believe I was the most beautiful, bright daughter a father could ever want. He encouraged me to reach high, and celebrated every victory no matter how small. He engaged in the usual dad activities -- teaching me to ride a two-wheel bike, running behind me for several hours hanging onto my banana seat until I found my balance, and helping me with my homework.
As I got older he was genuinely interested in trying to understand me. The sound of crickets today takes me back to humid, summer nights in Michigan. The evening hum is forever tied to a cheerful request, "Pammie, come talk to me..." that floated through the screen door where I sat on the floor watching "The Partridge Family" reruns. Dad never tired of inviting me to join him outside in one of our wobbly webbed patio chairs, eager to engage me in conversation, to hear and test my opinions.
The spring of 1981, though, shaped an enduring memory for me. When no boy invited me to the senior prom, my father conferred with my mother and came up with a plan. My braces newly removed, my colt-like figure still acquiring grace he knew my ego could bruise like a peach. He told me that boys my age were incapable of fully appreciating my charms and invited me to join him on a business trip to Washington DC on what would have been prom weekend. Distracted by visits to the Smithsonian and other monuments I was able to forget what was taking place on the school grounds and in the gymnasium.
On the night of the dance, in my own hotel room, I felt like a grown-up for the first time. I pulled a stylish hot pink jersey dress from the closet, stepped into strappy sandals and brushed on some blush and mascara. My father greeted me with a smile in the lobby and took me to a chic Georgetown restaurant where I sipped on my first glass of wine. We talked about history and politics while a jazz band played in the background. There were no staged photos, organza or corsages, but I felt more important than any prom queen. Even then the D.C. trip made me realize that a dance is just a dance, but having a loving father who helps make happy memories is something you keep close to your heart your whole life through.
Then came my birthday two years ago. While my mother was in the hospital recovering from a pulmonary embolism, my now frail father snuck off on an errand. When I came downstairs ready to accompany him to mom's room for visiting hours, he presented me with a beautiful corsage in honor of my birthday — two lovely flowers in shades of pink that matched the pink sweater I had chosen for the day. To say I was choked up would be an understatement. He's still my prom king.
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Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos is the author of Silent Sorority
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