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'Visits from Daddy' by Martha C. Dollarhide

As I lay sleeping, propped up on the couch after surgery, cocooned from ankle to neck (which is my preference) in my daughter's heavy pink bedspread, sluggish from doctors' drugs and dozing heavily, I felt the covers tucked in around my feet. Vaguely aroused from odd dreams and talking myself awake, I told Daddy to quit and kicked my feet out from under the spread. I fell back to sleep only again to feel the light, tentative, feathery, clumsy attentions of long loving fingers making sure my feet were secured.

Shocked, I fussed, "Daddy, quit it!" My own firm declaration woke me completely. Daddy. He was there. He was worried about his Angel Baby. We were all scared. (Another week would pass before the good news of healing would come.)

After oral surgery, sleeping propped up in the corner of what had been Daddy's couch was the best of comfort to be found. This couch, Daddy's constant perch for several years, had come with me when Daddy's house was disassembled. It is perfect for "resting and healing," the mantra from my sister to our mom in dark days passed. I thought I was alone. Prone to epic miniseries dreams involving colors, people, outrageous situations, and loud clear conversation, I assumed the cat was playing at my feet. No, she was actually in the bed! But I was not alone.

This presence stayed with me as I felt the spread being tucked around my toes and heels. I finally got spooked and jumped up. In my terrified half-dream state, I pictured a giant spider trying to attack from between the plush cushions. Why, then, had I spoken aloud to my father? Because it was his touch. There was no mistaking the feel of those caring pats and long faltering fingers, trying to help, to show his love.

This happened again the next night. He just would not let me sleep with my feet uncovered! (I promise, if you've ever had a hot flash, you'd have your feet uncovered too.) I accepted Daddy's visit but had to quit sleeping on the couch, because I couldn't get any sleep!

My brothers would most likely never understand or believe it. My sister knows—Daddy visits her too. Tears come and go, and the heartache of loss becomes less the burden and more the sad smile of remembering. Three weeks later, I have yet to return even to sit for a moment on Daddy's green sofa. But his visits will always be a welcomed comfort.

I don't feel Daddy across our house. I don't hear his clunky shoes in the hall or his voice talking to his beloved dog, Hannah. I don't hear his laugh. All of these followed me until we left his house. Leaving allowed my grief to find its place. Missing him will never diminish. I know that if I need him, he's here. All I have to do is go to his couch.

I love you, Daddy.

Martha

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Martha Dollarhide is 47 and married, with a grown son and daughter. She lives in her hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, where she works as a programmer for The University of Mississippi Alumni Association. She is an artist, an avid cook, and soul mate to Bobby, her husband of a year and a half. Martha was recently diagnosed with leukoplakia, a cancerous cyst of the soft tissue of the mouth. This story is an experience which followed her excision surgery. She is thankful and happy to say that the surgery was completely successful. Martha can be reached at mcdollarhide@olemissalumni.com.

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