The porch that my father built over 34 years ago still stands strong.
There are things that are built by our loved ones that never leave us.
On the way to my old childhood home I drove past the location where my father's vehicle struck a culvert and then got flung over 200 feet.
The ditch where my father was slung face down into the water; where his face full of broken bones rested for at least an hour before he was found. He couldn't move but, I imagine his will to live kept him breathing even though we later found out he would have remained in a vegetative state.
My father was even more of a fighter than I ended up becoming.
He was only thirty five years old then. A father of four. I was the youngest, and the only girl. A nine year old at the time.
My heart sunk into my gut when I passed that place in the sand that took my world away from me. I grew to hate crying about a year or so after that terrible day.
I remember the smile on his face most of all.
I remember the sound of his voice because it was very deep, like the sound of rushing waters far beneath the earth.
I remember how he would always rebel against my mom's pious ways. She was so quiet and he was mouthy like I grew to be.
I remember how my mom wanted him to go to church with her. And, he said, no, let's have our family service here. He would take his guitar and my mom would play the piano. We four kids would sing my parent's favorite hymns.
I remember the puppet shows we would make as children and how we would put on a show after our home-grown church services.
I remember how he never let his family man status from letting him be unique. I remember the sound of the cherry bomb pipes he put on my mom's station wagon.
I remember his dark eyes, dark hair, and his bright face.
I remember how he would weld things; he even made us a 100-foot television tower in our backyard.
I remember how he would hand-sew dresses for me to wear and craft purses from leather.
I remember the fudge he would make every Christmas.
I remember the time he tried to grow a banana tree in our back yard and failed miserably. Then, he got a cow and that cow ended up being struck by lightning.
I remember how he never stopped trying something new.
I remember that although we grew up poor, he never put himself first, always last.
I remember the night I last heard his voice. We had state-wide school testing the next day. He told me the dreams he had for me. How he envisioned me one day making a big difference.
I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by his best friend.
I remember being told to get dressed because there had been an accident and we needed to go to the hospital that my father was airlifted to over 40 miles away.
I remember the incredible silence and agony on that drive. I remember the apple my dad's best friend & his wife gave me to eat.
I remember the hospital reception room. I wasn't allowed to go into the ICU.
He was being kept alive on ventilators, I later found out.
I remember how long it felt to wait until my mom finally emerged.
I remember knowing instinctively that it was the end when I first saw her face. That was when I first learned to trust my intuition. Within the seed of tragedy, who I was to become was born.
I remember wanting to die. I remember not knowing why.
I remember the days following. My grandmother, aunts, uncles, mom, brothers. My god, it hurt like hell.
What is hell other than being alive yet suffocating from emotional pain.
I remember walking to his casket at the funeral. Being told not to touch his face or his chest. I did not understand what it meant when they said his face would sink in if I touched it.
I remember feeling the first sting of hate at that very moment. I wanted to hit the funeral man. I hated him.
I remember seeing my father's hands. They were without even a scratch. So, I held that in my final goodbye.
I remember running out of the funeral home. I remember first learning to scream on the inside at that moment.
I remember returning to school and the principal called me into the office to give me the fourth grade yearbook my father had been paying $1 at a time for me to have.
I remember coming home every day after school and screaming inside my room, banging my head and hands on the wall.
I remember the torture of it all.
I remember that the moment I lost my father, I first understood how cruel the world could be. How God took from me what should have stayed forever.
I remember seeing inside my tears the first glimpse of what I perceived as falsehood.
And, inside the most tragic moment of my life, I swore to learn what truth meant to me.
It became the seed of my father. The seed of Truth, of the love of a father for his daughter, became my destiny.
He told me that he believed in me.
I will never let him down. Because, I swore on my father's memories, that inside my dedication to Truth was his very spirit.