I will explain more about this anecdote in my next post but it’s an important foundational story for what is to come. This story first appeared on my personal Facebook profile in April 2014.
It was a Tuesday morning. He stopped by my condo on his way to work to put my eye drops in. It was early – maybe 6:45 or so. As I wrapped my arms around him and told him I loved him and hoped he had a great day, he asked me, “what are you going to do today?”
What? The same thing I do every day, of course. Sit here, try to be productive and wait on my eyes to heal so I can move on with my life. Duh.
“I don’t know. I don’t have a plan yet, Dad. Got any ideas?”
I expected him to give me a list of random chores or something off his honey-do list (the one he gave himself, I might add). Instead, he looked at me, leaned on one leg and cocked his head sideways.
“Take an adventure.”
“What kind of adventure, Dad?”
“Well I don’t know, why don’t you take the bus downtown?”
Whoa, really? My overprotective Dad wanted his precious (half blind) daughter to go get on a bus and head aimlessly into Nashville?
“Really? You’re okay with that?”
Well of course not. He wanted me to just stick with West End. That way, I would be close to CAT and if anything happened, he would be right there. There are restaurants and stores and coffee shops. That’s what he wanted me to do.
He wanted to know exactly what I was wearing and what I had on me (in case I went missing). I still have the voicemail where he called and obsessively double and triple checked to make sure I had all my eye drops in case of pain or I was out longer than expected.
So I took a shower, looked up the bus schedule, packed up my backpack and trotted toward the bus stop (which is about a 10 minute walk from my front door). As I walked, I thought, “really? Am I actually doing this?”
Then I remembered – my Daddy would never put me in harm’s way. I was going to be just fine.
“If something happens, I’m right here.”
“But Dad? You have to work. I don’t want…”
“There’s important things. Then there’s really important things. Do you hear me?”
I got the courage to get on the bus, then Dad called and asked if he could tell my Mom. We didn’t want her to worry but we also knew we couldn’t keep it from her. He was so excited to call and tell her.
I got down to West End. I passed the CAT building. I got off, and I walked around for a little while. I had packed way too much in my tech bag. It was heavy. I also hadn’t thought about that most places weren’t open until 11. It was 10:20. I leaned up against the side of TGI Friday’s and texted Dad.
“Well I’m here, but nothing is open. Guess I didn’t plan this real well.”
“Come to the building.”
“Really? Are you sure? Is that okay?”
“Just do what I tell you.”
“Yes sir. I’ll be there in just a minute.”
I walked up and hit the button. When I looked up, he was on the other side of the revolving door. The operator didn’t even need to ask me who I was there to see.
We went and got my security badge. The sweet gentleman, whom I had met on previous visits to the building, told me all about “the rules.” He said if I broke anything, they’d have to put Bucky in Caterpillar jail. We laughed. I asked him how many times Dad had landed himself in CAT jail.
One of the things Dad said to me often, “You’re an adult now. Carry your own bail money.” I reminded him of that.
We headed up to his office, where he intently worked on responding to emails while showing me how the meeting schedule works. My favorite one – he liked going into the Weight Watchers meetings and eating a bag of potato chips or eating a slice of chocolate cake in the sound booth. We laughed.
After talking for a few minutes, we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. Side note: CAT’s cafeteria is awesome. We had lunch and he introduced me to everyone as his daughter.
“Hey, have you met my daughter?”
“Hey, this one’s mine. I’m so proud of her.”
“When is bring-your-kid-to-work day?”
He was smiling from ear to ear the whole time. He was so excited to have me there.
I thought I would leave then, but he guided me back to his office. He wanted to know exactly where I was going from his office and my plan to get back home. I decided I wanted to go to the bookstore on Vanderbilt’s campus. It was about 4 blocks down, on the other side of the road.
Dad decided there was no way in Hell I was crossing West End by myself. He literally took me by the arm and guided me across the street. He made sure I knew exactly what I was doing and where I was going. He hugged me tight.
“Be safe. Let me know as soon as you get to each destination and when you leave. I want to know exactly where you are at all times. Got it?”
“I love you. And I’m so proud of you.”
“I know, Dad. I love you too.”
As I walked away, he never moved. I looked back every few steps, and each time, his eyes were affixed in my direction. He watched until he couldn’t see me anymore.
Of course, I obediently texted him as I arrived to and departed from each location – all the way until I got home.
In those few hours, my Daddy gave me a gift many never get to experience. He made me feel like I was his most prized possession and he would protect me at all costs. I don’t understand why I didn’t get more time with him, but I know that I know he loved me and he was proud of me and he believed in me. I’ll carry that forever. I’ll love and miss you forever, Bucky Carter.