For the first few years of my life, I was incessantly clingy—at least, that is, to my mother. It was said that while hospitalized and incubated for my first three months, when physical contact was professionally denied me, the mere sound of my mother’s voice excited my heart monitor. When I was finally taken home, I proved to imbibe time and trouble; throughout the night, I would involuntarily cease to breathe. Emergency Room trips kept my parents from boredom. My mother, however, spent the whole of her days with her only child at the time: her little papoose, the exact physical inverse of her. However, this appeared to me the only difference between us. Upon exiting toddler-hood, I ate and listened to what she ate and listened to. I particularly demanded Diet Coke (though given Hi-C instead), and still distinctly remember the record album to one of Amy Grant’s first Christian records, played so often in our first base housing residency. On the whole, I loved everyone that she loved…except, perhaps, for those whom I occasionally felt threatening to this vital relationship. At times, I surmised this “occasional” circumstance to be my dad.
The truth is, we were two peas and a pod, my father and me. Everyone said we looked alike. Don’t get me wrong, I dearly cherished him, too; just, I didn’t quite always recognize the extent of my affections…until any hint of rivalry was dissolved when, at the age of four, my dad temporarily left the small Dotson clan to fight in the Gulf War. Beside myself, in unwitting humility and vulnerability, I declared, “I think I love Daddy now!” And I did. I hated to see him leave, and honestly cannot recount ever again feeling any formerly tense feelings for him following. Simply, I realized what I could have lost forever: the Gate of our home. When he returned, I was almost a whole year older. By then, Ashley was old enough to join her older sister and father in play-sessions which included two little girls, lovely dolls in hand, and one Marine, Elvis figure in hand. Bonding times for certain.
While the above account might seem humorous, I am still coming to acknowledge how increasingly more I am in need of paternal presence. I appreciate more than ever the protective covering he provides, and the company he affords. He loves my beautiful mother more than can be described (a fact I’ve grown much more accustomed to—in fact, quite fond of), and represents the Gate, the Fortress through which one may enter only in an understood sense of accountability. He is the leader, the patriarch of the family; I am proud of him, and thank God that I am always destined to be his daughter. And yes, I have since that day sincerely voiced that “I KNOW I love Daddy now…and always.”
Memories flood back whenever I see this clip concerning young Susan’s sudden and different reaction when her father leaves for war as it was very similar to the feelings I also experienced as such a young girl: