17 years...

You know that moment when you look at the calendar and what feels like only yesterday is in fact 17 years? 17 long and empty years. I was Daddy's little girl. Much to my mother's dismay, just like him. Looked like him. Acted like him. Mommy did all the work, but Daddy took all the credit lol. I was his little shotgun he'd say. He'd pick me up after school in his coal truck, which made me super cool at 8 years old. Then he'd pick me up on his motorcycle....mega cool then. And he'd rip all that away by dropping me back off the next morning blasting bluegrass out of 70s stationwagon that my brother bought lol. Pretty sure we all hated that car, but his enjoyment over my humiliation was worth it.
We'd leave extra early every morning so we could listen to Lum and Abner on AM radio. We'd talk along with the opening....every single morning. And every morning he'd run by Burger King and get my breakfast if he hadn't already fixed it for me after he retired. We'd let mom sleep.
He met my first "real" boyfriend with a shotgun pointed at his chest. I'm still surprised that guy stuck around for a few months after that. Daddy was pretty strict, especially when it came to me and boys. His friends would talk to him for me, telling him he needed to loosen the reigns just a little. He never did, and I'm glad he didn't. Of course that fateful day came when I got engaged. Daddy wasn't happy. He told one of his friends, "I reckon she's going to marry that jerk." as he was working out how he was going to turn the barn loft into a home for us. No matter what, he loved me and wanted me to have a nice place to live. He even got me a bathtub....big soaking tub that I got to use in the first house I built. When he got sick, we talked a lot. After I broke up with "the jerk," and informed him I didn't much like the boy he thought I should marry, Daddy told me I was too picky. He said I was holding out for Prince Charming, and that my idea of Mr. Perfect didn't exist. He went on to tell me he wanted me to find someone who would be good to me, who would be a good father and work hard at an honest job to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. He said I didn't need anything fancy or anything more than that, and if I kept holding out for a prince I would end up unmarried with a houseful of cats. If he was alive today I'd point out I only have 2 cats.
He wasn't scared of dying at all, he was worried about what would happen to us. He used those 9 months to teach me all he could, all he thought I'd need to know that he had time for. When to change my oil, how to change a tire, how to drive on winter roads, how to take care of the horses because he said he knew I'd never stay away from them. He taught me everything except how to be Daddy's Little Girl....without her daddy.
Thankfully, God placed good men in my life who stepped in when they weren't even asked to. G wasn't even family, but he protected me like his own and walked me down the aisle. And my uncle. Words can't even begin to cover all he did for me. He taught me all the stuff daddy didn't get to in his short 9 months. Thanks to him I can plumb a house, change out an outlet, trim a house, build a floor, build a porch, patch a wall....install just about anything that needs to be installed, and the very important lesson that a corded drill is much more powerful than a cordless drill. My wrist still hurts after that. I am blessed with a great step dad who loves me like I'm his own, and treats me like I'm his own. He would move mountains to help me if I needed it, and has before.
I wonder what he'd think of us all now. Would he be proud of us? He'd still say sending me to school was his biggest mistake lol. B would be spoiled beyond repair. He'd have his own horse...or 3...and he'd probably be doing some kind of barrel racing something. B would be his little carbide, his new shotgun.....like my niece was his sidekick. I probably wouldn't live where I do. I'd be in the barn loft with my 15 cats he said I'd have because, let's face it, I'm still picky. He'd be proud of the young woman K has grown into, and he'd make her boyfriend walk a chalk line lol. I wonder what he'd think of M, but then again I wonder what M would think of him HAHA! I know he'd like M, but I'm not so sure I'd be able to handle their combined sarcasm directed at me.
Today I choose not to dwell on that day 17 years ago when Cancer stole my dad from me. Instead, I choose to look back on all the things he taught me. All the laughs he gave me. All the special moments we shared that only a Daddy and his little girl can have. From the time I got all dressed up for a date with daddy to the tack shop, to falling under the horse, to him laughing when I named the bull DinDin, and getting mad when he traded DinDin just before he was ready to be butchered. I will think back to all the rides we went on, and the times I fell asleep on the back of that Goldwing. I'll think about the time he let me park the coal truck by myself.  I was 8 or 9. I'll think of curling up behind his legs on the couch and watching movies with him. I'll think about all the surgical procedures we watched on TV, and him telling me I could do that one day lol. He's where I got my love of documentaries and old black and white movies from. I will think about all the stories he and his brothers told, and while I would give anything for one more evening with them all, I can at least cherish the memories of their laughter. So at 3pm today I won't think about my dad's last breath.....I want to think about all the good memories. 17 years....unreal.