There are several things from my childhood that really stand out in my mind about my daddy. One thing I remember and for which I will always be grateful is the fact that I felt so very cared for. Now, you don''t have to tell me that this one thing in and of itself is something rare and precious. Even though my daddy didn't make a lot of money, our family always had a good roof over our head and plenty to eat. There was never a day that I didn't have lunch money or there wasn't a snack after school to hold me till supper was on the table. Even the little pleasures of life were there...we took family vacations and we were able to do things at school that cost money that I'm sure were not in the family budget. I know this from having my own children and grandchildren who were and are very involved in school activities. But my dad always tried his very best to let us do the things we wanted -- drill team, cheerleading, baseball, football, Girl Scouts, band -- the list goes on and on. I specifically remember when I would go to my dad with a request, his usual response would be "We'll scrape up the money somehow!" And he didn't say this to make me feel bad, quite the opposite; he wanted me to be able to do anything my heart desired. After all, I was his little girl. But now I realize how hard it probably was for him to come up with the funds to allow me to do some of those things. There was probably much borrowing from Peter to pay Paul going on, if you know what I mean.
But one thing that stands out in my mind is my daddy's love for a good breakfast. Now, he truly believes that breakfast is the meal of champions, and there's been much research today to suggest this is true. But back then, way before nutritionists determined that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, my daddy knew it. So he rose earlier than necessary many mornings to cook breakfast not only for himself but for us kids as well. And he didn't hold back. He prepared bacon or sausage, eggs, grits, toast...sometimes he even cooked rice for breakfast. Rice? Are you kidding me? I thought that was the strangest thing ever back then, but not so much today. My daddy is a rice lover and my husband is a rice lover and I have found most men do indeed love rice. Rice apparently can be eaten any time, at any meal and alongside anything, even noodles. Just ask our Asian friends. Just as tortillas are a staple in Hispanic culture, so is rice with the Asians. But that's a whole different subject for a different day! But what most cooks agree upon is this: if you're gonna prepare a meal, you want people to eat it and be just as excited about it as you are. That's part of the joy in cooking is seeing people enjoy what you prepare. I definitely was not excited about my daddy's breakfasts. I was usually in a hurry most mornings and I was not hungry before school so I didn't want to eat. Breakfast was also my least favorite meal of the day and to this day I can take or leave breakfast food items most days. Unless it's something bready and sweet. Cinnamon rolls could figuratively and literally be the death of me. Just like my mom did it, my first real meal of the day tends to be lunch. My daddy never understood this, so some mornings I choked down the meal to make him happy. After all, he was my daddy and I felt bad if I didn't eat his breakfast so lovingly prepared, rice and all. Still to this day, my dad enjoys a big breakfast. Most mornings he eats cereal now, and no longer is able to cook. But even in the not-so-distant past, he's been known to pull out all the stops and cook a huge breakfast fit for a king.
So recently I thought it would be an enjoyable thing to pick Daddy up and treat him to a good breakfast. Now, I wasn't completely self-less in my thinking because I chose the place we would go, and that would be IHOP. Their pancake creations have a tendency to lure me sometimes, so I would say that their advertising attempts are quite successful -- at least with me anyway. I had a huge pancake-craving going on. But upon arriving at the restaurant, my sweet little daddy realized he had left his wallet at home. He was apparently upset with himself for doing this because, after all, a man doesn't take his daughter to breakfast without money. It absolutely did not matter that I was the one who had INVITED HIM out for breakfast and I was the one who CHOSE where we would go so I had come fully prepared to pay. I tried to reassure him of that fact and pleaded with him not to worry, to just enjoy his breakfast. But this little mishap had clearly frustrated him and he was unhappy with himself throughout the entire meal. I could tell he was not in the best of moods as he ate. He complained that his eggs were not prepared the way he had asked, but he didn't want to request more. He was obviously upset, because it's not like my daddy to complain. I, on the other hand, was in pancake heaven and totally and completely enjoyed my lemon blueberry pancake fix and my four strips of bacon (AND eggs AND hashbrowns). Wow, too much food.
Upon our arrival back home, the first thing my daddy did was fetch his wallet. And after much debating back and forth about who was going to pay for breakfast (even though I already had), I lost the battle. Upon carefully inspecting the restaurant ticket, he reached into his wallet and pulled out cash and handed it to me. And, even though I am reluctant to take money from my daddy now because he is on a fixed income, I took the money and thanked him. It's times like this I am reminded my dad has the gift of making a dollar stretch just as far as it can possibly go. He was raised during the depression so he learned that lesson the hard way. He's also part of a dying generation where the man always pays and always holds the door open for the lady. But more than anything, I know it gives him great joy to this day to still have a part in taking care of me, even if it's a meal at IHOP.
After all, I still am and forever will be his little girl.
Posted by CC
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