“Desperado” lyrics courtesy of The Eagles.
It’s said a girl’s first love is her father. I find that to be true. A girl’s father sets the stage for every male relationship she will have in her life and mine was no different. My first memory in fact, is standing on my grandmother’s couch looking out the window at every set of headlights that passed hoping it was my daddy. It never was.
“Knight in Shining Armor”, acrylic print by Tom Shropshire
My parents divorced when I was small and my mother remarried. Their divorce was bitter and that bitterness caused a divide that would not be bridged for more than 30 years.
Although absent, my father was none the less a large part of my life. I lived with the constant hope he would come in and rescue me from what was really a very comfortable childhood. But that didn’t matter. My Daddy was out there someplace doing great and amazing things and one day he would come back for me and we would do great and amazing things together. He was a shadow behind my own shadow; ever present if not involved. But, like my little toddler self on grandma’s couch, I was waiting for something that would never happen. His car never pulled into the drive.
We did see him occasionally. We remained devoted to our grandparents, his family. On rare occasions he would breeze in loaded down with presents and full of love and attention for his estranged children. Those days were golden. I don’t hate. I’m not angry. I no longer have any resentment regarding that mess. Certainly, I wish things had been different. But wishing never did anything except make me cry, so I quit.
Now it seems to me, some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can’t get.
When I grew up we reconnected and got to know each other as adults. He’d been a car salesman, an insurance salesman, an oil rig roustabout and a dozen other things. Then he was a long-haul truck driver, an independent carrier in keeping with his independent spirit. He loved driving from one end of the country to the other according to his wishes. He might want to spend the summer in the Northwest, so he’d head for Washington and stay on those rocky beaches until his money ran out. Then he’d pick up a load headed south and stay there awhile. He truly loved America and all the beautiful people and places he visited.
Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger. Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home. And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’.
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.
Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time? The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine. It’s hard to tell the night time from the day. You’re losin’ all your highs and lows. Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?
In some ways, I envy him. I’ve wanted to walk out the door and keep walking. Hang my responsibilities and just go be somewhere people aren’t making demands on my time and energy. Lie about my name. Start all over with no messy emotional connections and where my past mistakes don’t matter. I understand now how he was able to remain absent from his family (families, he remarried 3 times after my mother) for so long. It isn’t hard to walk out the door. Walking back in takes a lot more courage and staying sometimes is a real feat of strength. Sometimes it’s easier to remain separated than to reach out and risk rejection and pain that comes with re-establishing a fractured relationship. But, in my experience, it’s always worth the effort to remain close to those you love, if not in body then in spirit.
During one of his visits, my father told me a story about a woman knew long ago. She was a singer at a bar and for him she sang the song, “Desperado” saying it summed up his life. Now, I don’t know this woman and he may not have known her either, but she was right. That song does sum up his life and this morning, Valentine’s Day, I heard it on the radio. And of course, I thought about Dad.
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses? Come down from your fences, open the gate. It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you.
On the last day of my father’s life, I told my father everything I always wanted to say. It was July. He was in a hospital burn unit wrapped in foil and dead but for the machine forcing his lungs to breathe. But he could hear us, they said. So, they told us to say our goodbyes and this is what I told him.
“I love you Daddy. I’ve always loved you. You are my hero, my knight in shining armor, you are my first love and best love and I will love you always. Let go and be with God. Be at peace. I’ve always loved you and believed in you and I will see you again.”
You better let somebody love you before it’s too late