I remember when I was growing up I always wanted my sister to call Dad, “Dad.” But she always called him by his name, “Johnny.” When she spoke about him to me she said, “Dad,” but she addressed him as Johnny.
I remember this fantasy that there would be a day or an occasion when she would call him “Dad,” like a gift. A gift to him or me, I don’t know.
I understand now that regardless of what Lisa called him, she was his and he was hers. And they truly loved each other.
When Ma and Dad met, Lisa was seven. They married several months later. Lisa was Dad’s first girl. When Ma and Dad got married, Dad legally adopted Lisa. Lisa’s own biological father had made some bad choices—one being that he abandoned Lisa. I don’t understand what kind of person could abandon such a sweet little girl.
Thinking about how things would be different if things had been different can make a person crazy, so I won’t.
My dad has a plaque that has hung in his and Ma’s room for as long as I can remember, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy,” a gift from my sister.
Lisa was nine when I was born. She loved me and she was happy to have me as her sister. I was her girl.
I would get the feeling other people liked Lisa more than me and it made me jealous even though I was kind of an asshole and she was much more likeable. I didn’t feel that way with Dad—he loved Lisa and me equally.
My dad is mostly a quiet man who saves his words for important or engaging things. He’s not wasteful. He demonstrates his love by doing things for me, just as he did with Lisa. He seems to have been assembled with not an affectionate bone in his body, unless you are a very small child or a dog.
I seem to have turned out the same way.
I wish our love and adoration for Lisa had been enough to banish the demons of depression that plagued her. I wish our love and adoration had been enough to destroy the damage wrought by her biological father.
But, as my PawPaw would say, you can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up faster.