The Embrace

by C. Highsmith-Hooks

I cried like a baby when I saw him.

Not that seeing him made me sad, but it had been almost 5 years since I laid eyes on my daddy. The flood of emotions rushing through me was hard to explain: on one hand, I hated him for deserting us. But at the same time, I wanted to hold onto my daddy and never let him go. I was so afraid he’d leave me again.

I stroked his neatly cropped salt-and-pepper hair like a cherished doll that I had lost, then suddenly found. I looked into his deep, dark brown eyes; they were my eyes and the eyes of my oldest brother, Maxwell. They were the eyes of a man who knew he’d made mistakes and was sorry for them. The eyes of my daddy, David Highsmith, Sr.

I held his face in my hands and gently kissed it with the love and admiration of a five-year old girl. But that kiss was thirty-four years late, for I was now almost thirty-nine. It had taken more than three decades for this father and daughter to make peace with the past. Thirty years of pain, hatred, anger, resentment, misunderstanding, maturity and finally, reconciliation. It was a public display that should have taken place behind closed doors many years ago in a small second-floor apartment at 70 California Avenue. But neither of us was ready then. We couldn’t have handled it then.

All around us, people became teary-eyed, emotional. We too, were swept up in a tidal wave of foggy glasses and smeared Fashion Fair #4550.

"I love you, Pop," I whispered in his ear. "And I’ve missed you. Been needing to talk to you."

He said, "I know, Chickadee. I know." Nobody else calls me by that name.

I told him to come out to California for a visit. My daddy has never been to my home.

"I’ll be there soon. I promise." He grabbed my hands and held them as they swung in front of me. He vowed to call and write more often.

I reminded him that he still had to take his granddaughter for walks by the beach, so he should stop smoking. He reminded me that my husband and I don’t have a daughter yet.

"But we’re going to start working on her the minute I get home," I told him. We both laughed.

Then we hugged like the world was coming to an end. A father and his oldest daughter locked in a deep, silent embrace. It was an embrace that was too long overdue.

I heard people commenting on how "cute" and "sad" it was to watch all this. Cameras were flashing around us, but our attention was focused on only each other. For that one moment, no one could enter my daddy’s world and mine. They were all outsiders.

I kissed him one last time and made my way to the car, wiping my eyes as I sat down. I paused for a minute, put the key in the ignition and backed out of my aunt’s driveway. Then I blew the horn and winked at my daddy. He gave me the double thumbs -up sign.

As I put the car in drive, I realized I was finally ready to move forward with my life, for I was now whole. It seems even at my age, there were still some wounds that only a daddy’s hug could truly and completely heal.

The Embrace by C. Highsmith-Hooks

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