My father set the bar really high for what this day stands for and I miss everything about him.
In the earliest of years, the memories are few but vivid, tickling me, flying me high on his feet, helping me brush my teeth, finding me in the cabinet licking peanut butter off a spoon, tucking me in at night.
Then as time went on, it was my excitement to get off the plane knowing he would be on the other side of those doors waiting for me, the cool rush of the air conditioned airport as I stepped out into the waiting area, my eyes adjusting to the bright light and there he would be.
So tall, dark and handsome and he was my Dad!
He seemed a king among men as we set about our long summer days togethers – just the two of us, and various Dutton family members.
Filling our days with trips to the old Dunedin Marina park to swing me, “so I can touch the sky Daddy!” All the times at the beach making sandcastles while he would patiently explain the virtues of drip sandcastles vs. “regular” sandcastles, picking sand dollars out of the Gulf with our toes, building forts in the dunes, teaching me how to play backgammon, counting the freckles on my nose to pass the time while we waited in line for the movies at the old Sunshine mall, going for orangecicles and ice cream on Gulf to Bay, getting me my first Barbie Doll Town House for Christmas, and all his little pet nicknames for me…Hope E, gypsy girl, brown berry, barefoot girl, tall drink of water…oh he had them and I loved them all.
During my formative middle years, after going to live with him year round, it was him wearing what I thought were these awful plaid golf pants yet somehow they looked great on him and now I realize I loved them, buying me my first softball glove, looking up to see him sitting in the stands at my games or track meets, sometimes still in his suit because he made it in time after work, winning the father/daughter softball throw on field day, grousing about getting up at the crack of dawn to run errands but secretly loving it because it meant I got alone time with him & really great advice about life, usually at the Dunedin Firestone or while washing the boat, walks around the neighborhood, singing silly little songs that were important only to us, fussing at me for going barefoot while standing in his bare feet, the smell of his cologne, watching him shave, him teaching me how to whistle, tie a tie, smoke a cigar without getting sick, open a bottle of champagne, picking the proper wine for each meal, crack crabs, peel shrimp, shuck an oyster (because he said I ate them quicker then he could shuck), drive a stick, grilling temperature and times for steak and chicken, and how to carry on a conversation.
His love was my compass…and I rarely felt lost through those hard teen-age years.
Then later in life, there he was to encourage me through the trials and tribulations of college, walking me down the aisle, holding my head, my hand, my heart and my babies as I matured into a woman. He greeted me almost daily with a morning phone call and a “good morning Hope Elizabeth.” while I drove to work. Dunedin to Daytona…he never failed to close the physical distance between us as we forever stayed emotionally close.
He reminded me that while life might swing, I had the grace to manage whatever came my way because not only was I a Dutton, I was also my own person. I was Hope Elizabeth.
He guided me through life’s lessons on how to be of good character and strong in life. Was forever proud of me in so many ways and never withheld his praise or love. Telling me when I did wrong yet stood by my side. Showing me how to be vulnerable, genuine & balanced. That it was okay to push in for resolution when most shy away. When to listen and when to say when, and firmly walk away. Yes, he was all this and so much more.
Strong fathers raise strong daughters that learn how to heal if they ever feel broken…except from the grief once they loose their daddy’s…because missing a man who was your first love is something you never quite get over.
Yes, he was my compass…and because of him, I learned how to become the anchor to my own soul.
As always,Go in love,