Sunday, June 19, 2016

For the Love of a Little Girl

The (misspelled) signature is probably by my mother.
My daughter  put this up on her Facebook page this morning and it brought up so much stuff for me. Jenniffer, was about two and a half at the time this was made, and she was spending most of her time with Mom. Jennie's mom, Eva, and I had divorced and I was left with a baby, not being much more than a baby myself. Mom rushed to the rescue.

Jennie and Mom were always close and Mom treated her like her own ninth child. In this card, Mom cut out the photo, a smidge unevenly, and misspelled Jenniffer's name, making the natural mistake of spelling it correctly.

The evening Jennie was born, I couldn't stand the pressure and strain of sitting with her mother for 18 hours of labor and rushed off to a bar, loading up. When I got back to the hospital, Jennie was a newborn and the nurse held her out to me.

"What is it?" I asked the nurse.

"A beautiful little girl," she said.

"I meant the species," I cracked.

The nurse took on a dark look, scrunched her brow and said, "Mr. Smith, this is not a joke. You are now a father."

I proceeded, in my unstable state, to misspell Jennie's name on the birth certificate and set the bar for fatherhood, which I have never exceeded. I have never been a good dad and I regret that.

Jennie and I, over the years, have always had a tempestuous relationship, mostly because I never learned to behave. Even these days, when I believe all our differences to be behind us, I do things I seriously regret. Jennie owns five dogs that she loves. I complain about barking dogs. She raises horses. I grumble that farm waste is ruining our water supply. She used to drive a long-haul truck. I talked constantly about how intimidating truckers were on the road. And our politics. I won't even go into that.

Truth is, though, that I love Jenniffer Christine Smith and will until the day I die. I just wish I could have shown it better over the years.

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