Leading and teaching by example, Dad taught me to dance and how to live life.
Word Count: 669
“Daddy’s Little Girl”
By Donna Lowich
“Lovely weather we’re having…” Much more than a conversational “ice breaker” between two strangers, this is how my Dad and I began every dance we danced since I was in my early teens. It began as a joke as Dad was teaching me to dance. There was a silent moment and I blurted it out. Dad laughed so hard in response that I decided it was worth doing again…and again. Each and every time, Dad laughed. The first time was because of his surprise at the comment. After that, it was a shared joke, our joke. It was funny to us because of the sheer repetition and the expectation that it would start our dance.
So whether we were dancing at a wedding, anniversary, birthday party or similar family function, we laughed while we danced. At weddings in particular, we’d dance if the band played “Daddy’s Little Girl”. It was most appropriate because at nearly six feet tall, my Dad towered over me. I always describe myself as “just a hair under five feet tall”. That’s a stretch, both figuratively and literally.
But Dad did more than just teach me to dance. He taught me how to live life, always teaching and leading by example.
We never had a lot of money but we were always comfortable. Dad made his living as a barber and owned his own shop in a town about ten miles from where we lived. He sponsored a Little League team in the town for many years. Dad gave generous “family discounts” even though his prices were already low.
If he saw a car with a flat tire or stuck in a snow bank, he always stopped and helped. In return, he only asked the stranded motorist that his kindness be extended to others in need of assistance.
One particular incident remains with me to this day. We were leaving church one Sunday morning when it began to rain. A little boy was standing on the sidewalk trying to sell newspapers. The shower surprised everyone, especially the little boy who was trying to keep his inventory dry. Dad went to him and gave him the money for the remaining newspapers. The surprised and happy little boy helped Dad put them in the back of our station wagon.
Dad was a natural-born debater; he would have made a brilliant lawyer. But, as with many of his generation, the Depression, war and family commitments combined forces to become obstacles to education after high school. He became a barber, just as his father had done. But, he did it in such a way as to always have a crowded shop with loyal customers who stayed with him, even bringing their children to him when they grew up. Dad repeated his belief to me: “Whatever you do, always give it your best shot. Become the best at it that you can be.”
Tragedy struck our family when my brother, Jimmy, died from leukemia. He was only twelve years old. Our loss was unimaginable. His grief was so profound, Dad could not bring himself to speak about Jimmy for many years. Dad continued with most of his life but that part of it went unhealed for the longest time. Once my son, Jeffrey, was born twenty years later, the cloud lifted somewhat. His bond with Jeff lifted the veil of grief and Dad could speak of Jimmy once again.
As a family, we shared laughter and happiness, tears and sorrow. Through it all, we remained a family. Dad and Mom saw to it that my sister, MaryLou, and I never missed a holiday or birthday celebration even though their hearts were broken. Dad was our tower of strength.
To this day, when I hear the strains of “Daddy’s Little Girl” my eyes well up with tears. They are not solely tears of sorrow. Although I miss my Dad every day, the song brings up the beautiful memories of dancing and all the things I learned from him.
Thank you, Daddy.