Daddy-Daughter Date

DSC02559 (640x480)The shit hit the fan some weeks ago – so bad it seemed my worst nightmares had come back to life, and I was about to lose my second family.

It’s not my place to go into details. But small rends scattered over a timeline of months ever widened to a climax. I watched in horror as everything unraveled before my eyes. And there was nothing I could do. At its worst, I didn’t even know what was going on, because neither Daddy nor Mama would talk to me. I’m twenty-eight and living on my own. But my life with my adoptive family had become my second childhood – because my first one had been such a colossal failure. And I’d hoped desperately this time would be better.

I kept a calm face and told myself I was all right.

That was a lie.

Finally, everything hit rock bottom. It was over.

I told myself I would be mature. I adjusted my mind to being the daughter of divorced parents. Spending one weekend with Daddy, one weekend with Mama. Lots of kids did it, at ages much younger than me.

A different side of me wanted to throw a tantrum, sell all my stuff, buy an RV, and get the hell outta Dodge – never settling down, and never, ever trying family again. Ever.

That night, Mama posted a selfie to Facebook: her and Daddy at a hockey game. Smiling.

I burst into tears.

For a while, I knew it was my place to give them space, even though the once-abandoned baby that lives inside me was screaming again in her cradle, desperate to be assured everything was going to be okay. Shifts took place at home and at work … and I found myself lost in the shuffle. I told myself to be patient.

Daddy’s work schedule was insane. (One shift lasted 22 hours.) But he and Mama kept making date nights a priority, and I kept seeing selfies on Facebook. I was genuinely relieved. And I knew I would eventually snatch a second somewhere to spend with them – other than a quick, “Hi/bye,” when I came over to take care of the dogs while Daddy rushed back to work … or finally made it home again late at night.

– – –

DSC02581 (480x640) (2)Daddy’s ringtone blared from my phone. I lifted my face out of my pillow and hoped my voice sounded chipper instead of croaky. “Hi, Daddy.”

“Are you up yet?”

Kinda? I’d been working until three in the morning (night owl) and was just starting to come back to life. “Just waking up,” I said.

“Can you be ready by 11:15? I’ll pick you up.”

I glanced at my bed-side clock. Ten a.m. “Sure. Are we going somewhere?” When I was adopted into a law enforcement family, I quickly adjusted to the fact that plans were typically made last-minute, and only kept if nobody got called out.

“I’ve got some Christmas shopping to do.”

A trip to town with Daddy? I was all for it. I’d hardly seen him in two weeks. I didn’t care what his plans were. Just that I was going with.

– – –

A little over an hour later, I hopped into his car in front of my apartment building.

“Now, I don’t usually plan anything last-minute–”

I laughed. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. “I thought you planned everything last-minute.”

He looked baffled, suggesting to me that he really thought he didn’t. “Well, I thought I had the Star Wars movies on DVD, but I couldn’t find them.”

We’d been talking about squeezing in a marathon before the release of the new film – if we ever found the time.

“So maybe we’ll pick them up at Walmart,” he said. “And then I looked up the show times for that one movie and I thought maybe we’d go see that instead.”

“Which movie?” Star Wars 7 wasn’t out yet.

“The one with the whale and shit. Thought we’d see it in 3D.”

In the Heart of the Sea. The true story that inspired Moby Dick. My face lit up. I love anything with boats or ships. And adventure. And 3D. I’d seen my first 3D movie a year ago when the final Hobbit film released, and I was starstruck before we’d even finished the previews.

I wroked hard not to bounce in my seat all the way to town.

We polished off our Christmas shopping. (Since this post goes live before Christmas, I can’t say what we got for Mama!) Afterwards, we headed for the theater. Daddy chose seats for us smack in the middle of the room. We put on our 3D glasses. The curtains opened, and a young Herman Melville rapped at the door of an old sailor – the last survivor of a ship that was rumored to have been destroyed by a menacing whale …

When the popcorn ran out, I wrapped my arm through Daddy’s and leaned against his shoulder. He tucked my hand in his and rubbed my fingers. Much as I love adventure and a good sea story – and ships – the best part to me of any movie is an excuse to snuggle with my Daddy. Part of that whole “second childhood” thing.

Granted, if you tilt your head sideways while wearing 3D glasses, you miss out on the full effect. But for the first 26 years of my life, I missed out on a Daddy. Some things are just more important than others. Maybe someday, I’ll watch a 3D movie and actually get it in full 3D. But I’m pretty sure Daddy will have to not be there.

For now, I watched ships sail sideways and a ginormous whale awkwardly fly past me, half flattened.

One of the things I love about Daddy and Mama the most is that they know relationships don’t just happen as if by magic. You don’t take the people in your life for granted, or pretty soon you won’t have people in your life. You poke your head up from the hamster wheel now and again, and ask, “When’s the last time we went to a hockey game?” or, “When’s the last time I took my daughter to a movie?” And then you clear the schedule and you go to a hockey game or take your daughter to a movie.

It’s not like it’s complicated – just making time for each other – yet it’s the stuff that holds everything together. For a few hours, nobody cares about late-night search warrants and weird shifts and everything else that’s crappy about working in law enforcement and life in general.

Nothing matters except for us.

And, yes, the movie with the whale and shit was fantastic. Go see it. In almost-3D with your head sideways cuz you’re snuggling someone you love.

2015-12-21 Just Making Time for Each Other

The Day I Met My Daddy

It was two years ago, as I write this, that I moved to the little town of Washburn, North Dakota. I was escaping an abusive past and wanted nothing more than for the world to leave me alone. In fact, there was only one relationship that I still craved: a Daddy.

Exactly two years ago today – December 14th – I finally found him. But when I originally published this post on my old blog, I didn’t even realize it.

Now, on the anniversary of the day we met, here’s that post again. It all started with a stray dog …

– – –

The Day I Drove a Patrol Car

THE STORY YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS TRUE. THE NAME OF THE DOG WAS CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT.

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The railroad track and grain elevator in Washburn

Saturday morning was scheduled to be pretty boring. Clean up around the house and pick up groceries–provided I could maneuver the winter roads. But first I took Molly out to do her business–and that’s when my schedule went to the dogs.

As soon as I opened the front door, Molly bolted. Half a second too late, I saw two black labs on the street. Molly rushed to meet them, friend or foe. I ran after her–but it was okay. In a moment, all three were playing together as if they were old buddies.

I looked around. “Where’s your human?” I asked one of the labs.

Dunno, she said, and slammed Molly to the ground.

The lab was wearing a collar. I managed to get ahold of her–and managed to get dragged through the snow–and managed to confirm that she was wearing a city license tag. No phone number I could call, no address I could walk up to–but thanks to the ID number on the tag, her owner’s info would be on file with the city.

I tried to catch the other lab, too, but he was a smart old hound. He saw something fishy about me hanging on to his pal and trotted off down the street. I couldn’t hold on to both Molly and the lab I had in hand and expect to catch a third dog … so I counted my gains and called the county sheriff. The sheriff’s office promised to send a deputy my way.

I’ve been both a volunteer and an employee at the humane society back in my home town, so I’m pretty familiar with how to find a stray’s owner, when possible. If the dog has no tags, you call the police. They take the dog to the city pound, they check for any missing dog reports that match, and failing that they wait for the owner to come claim their dog. Failing that, the dog goes up for adoption. Failing that, either the dog goes on to a rescue like the humane society or … well.

But this lab had a tag. Simple matter of looking up her info. She’d be home in a matter of minutes.

Or so I thought. Found out I was in for a small-town adjustment shock.

Enter … the Patrol Car

This is not the patrol car in the article–but it’s a fair representation of its cool awesomeness.
This is not the patrol car in the article–but it’s a fair representation of its cool awesomeness.

The officer that responded was tall, heavy-set, middle-aged–but wearing the kind of scar you’d expect to find in a thriller. You know, the kind that starts at one cheek, cuts across the mouth, and ends at the chin. Unexpected element of Alfred Hitchcock.

I explained what was up.

“Well, here’s the problem,” said the deputy. “I can’t get at the records because the city offices are closed until Monday.”

Okay, that was not what I expected to hear. So the poor kid was going to have to spend the weekend at the pound?

“And I can’t take her to the kennel, because I’ve already got a dog in my car.”

I noticed the decal that said “K9 UNIT.” This was also not what I expected to hear.

“But if you want to follow in your car, I can show you where the kennel is.”

Still not what I expected to hear.

But I could deal with it. After working with hundreds of stray animals, I feel a certain responsibility toward any stray I run across. So frankly I have a hard time handing one over to the authorities and never seeing it again. I’d feel much better seeing where this young pup had gone and that she was well-cared for.

Heck, it sounded like more fun than house cleaning and picking up groceries.

“I hate leaving her at the kennel,” the deputy said, shaking his head.

I was pretty sure she’d feel awfully confused in a noisy shelter, but I was okay with it. The shelter where I worked wasn’t fancy by anybody’s standards, but the animals were loved and cared for and, in fact, spoiled rotten. There were worse places than a kennel to spend a weekend. And even if the shelter in this town was a little sub par, as I figured it might be in a small town, I could drop by to visit her until she went home on Monday.

It Wasn’t the Ritz …

The machine shed and storage unit
The machine shed, with the storage unit in the shadows

I put the lab in the back seat of my car, but somehow she ended up in the front seat, and then on my lap. Not the easiest way to drive, but the deputy never pulled me over, so it was all good.

He led me to the edge of town and parked in front of a machine shed with a small storage unit off to the side.

Something was missing. I didn’t hear any dogs barking. I glanced through the open door of the machine shed. Couple of trucks parked inside. I glanced at the little storage unit.

Oh.

Someone walked out of the machine shed and waved at the deputy. “Hey, Sam. Got yourself a new lab?”

“Nah, Turk, she’s a stray.”

“Well, you know who has black labs? Don does. He’s got four of them. You know who I’m talking about, right?”

“Drives a blue SUV?”

“That’s him.”

“I didn’t know he had labs.”

Okay, also not what I expected to hear. Between Sam and Turk, it sounded like they knew everybody in town–and what they drove, and what kind of pets they had.

Sam explained about the city license tag.

“Well, I can run over and look up her number,” said Turk. “It’d be no problem at all.”

That was a stroke of luck. Whoever this Turk person was, he had a key to the city office. But for the moment, the black lab–“Fred,” Turk christened her–was going to have to stay in the kennel–or rather, the storage shed.

Only, the door was locked.

“I don’t remember when’s the last time we used this,” Sam said.

“Been years,” Turk agreed.

They broke in the door.

Chain link fencing divided the storage unit into two kennels. The cement floor was layered with dust, as was the bed–a wooden pallet covered in carpet. Two plastic dishes sat in the corner, one with frozen water, the other with soaked-then-frozen dog food and a dead beetle.

Turk found a space heater and fired it up. At least Fred would have that.

I walked her into the kennel and sat down with her. “It’ll be okay. You won’t be here long. I’ll come visit you. I’ll clean this place up a bit, and take you for a walk. And I’ll bring you some of Molly’s dinner. She’s having roast chicken tonight.”

Fred didn’t look too keen on me leaving. But I had grand visions of how much more comfortable I could make this place for her. I had learned how to make much of little while working at the humane society.

Okay, This Is Where I Drive the Patrol Car

2015-12-14 police car, patrol car, reds and blues
Still not the actual patrol car …

Turk left immediately for the city office, and Sam got in his car to follow him. I was letting my cab warm up a bit when I heard the roar of spinning wheels. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the patrol car’s tires spitting snow–and not moving an inch.

I debated for a moment. Would it look totally lame if I was to throw my 110 pounds against the back of the fancy lights-and-gadgets patrol car?

After a minute of the fancy lights-and-gadgets patrol car getting nowhere, I decided image didn’t matter. I got out and put my shoulder to the bumper.

We tried forwards and back for about five minutes with no results. (Other than me getting pelted with snow.) Sam finally put it in park, swung the door open, and got out. He circled his car, shook his head over the state of his snow tires, then stood thinking a minute. Finally he motioned toward the driver’s seat.

“Why don’t you get in?”

I stared in awe at the open door. Had Sam really just told me to drive his patrol car? I pumped both my fists. “Score!”

I jumped in behind the wheel. Gizmos. Gadgets. I didn’t even know what they all did. I couldn’t even find the gear shift, I was so pumped over what I was doing. Lots of writers try to get a ride-along at some point in their careers–but I was driving the thing!

Suddenly a furry, reddish-gold face appeared out of the back seat. Oh yeah. Police dog. Should I be concerned? But Sam’s dog merely sniffed me and smiled before disappearing into the back seat again. Sam told me later he was a sniffing dog. Red Labrador–which I’d never heard of before. (Sam confessed he hadn’t, either.)

Okay, this was it. I put the cop car in gear and gunned it. The speedometer hit 40.

The car moved about six inches.

Sam told me later I looked really small inside his patrol car. Thanks.

But our new strategy worked better–me driving, Sam pushing. When we had the patrol car in a good position, Sam took the wheel again, and with a final blitz of powder, he skidded out of the parking lot.

“That,” I thought as I watched him drive away, “is going to make a killer blog post.”

The Fate of Fred

2015-12-14 black lab snow
… and not the actual Fred. But also a fair representation of her cool awesomeness.

Sam called me later. Turk had gotten Fred’s information and contacted the owner, who came and picked her up.

“She’s just ten months old,” Sam said. “The owner said the older dog knew how to get home, but he was worried about the younger one.”

I was so glad to hear they were both home safe.

“Oh,” said Sam. “And thanks for helping me get my car out of the snow.”

Hey, any time.

– – –

What Happened Later …

It’s hard to believe that a run-of-the-mill stray dog report resulted in the Daddy I’d been looking for my entire life. But that’s exactly what happened. And this day cannot come and go without me thanking Fred and her companion for busting out of the yard and going for a lark.

I called a deputy, hoping he’d help me get a lost dog home. But I was the one who was lost, and he brought me home. Thank you, Daddy. I love you more than anything.

2015-12-14 I found a dog