I stood in the dark at the end of New Years–the pop and fizz of fireworks long gone–hugging the crocheted blanket and sobbing for my daddy.

My father’s been dead for more than six years. Cancer. And while I don’t think of him everyday because quite frankly we really weren’t that close, the last two days I’ve thought about him a lot.

After I sanded my daughters’ bedroom doors in preparation for repainting, I was pressure cleaning my electric sander and I thought about my dad. He was ex-Marine. And he taught me how to put my stuff away where it belongs. As a kid I didn’t appreciate the fact that I could walk blindly into his immaculate tool shed and put my hand on any tool I needed when I needed it because, if it wasn’t being used, it was in its spot. It’s a treasured lesson I now try to instill in my own kids.

I was at a New Year Eve party sharing with a friend that when I was in high school my father offered to get me whatever drugs I wanted so I could try it under a controlled environment while he supervised. That may sound very unparent-like, but at the time drugs laced with poison had already killed a few kids in my town. I think it was his way of minimizing the chances he would have to identify me in a morgue. Regardless, it stripped away any mystery or allure that illicit drugs might have had on me.

My dad didn’t always run the right side of the law. It took him away from my brother and I as children and as adults. He didn’t get to walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t able to be there to comfort me when I lost my first child nor when we discovered our second child had autism. And but for a few short months before his death, the only time he spent with his grandchildren was in a corrections facility visiting room.

Unfortunately, my dad grew up under the impression that public displays of affection–even toward your children–were for the weak. And my father was anything but weak. Six-feet, four-inches, 230 pounds, and built like a tank. I only ever saw him cry once in my whole life and that was when his was coming to an end. But he never let me go to my childhood bed without kissing him goodnight.

When he got older, my dad mellowed a bit. He showed me love the best way he knew how. He crocheted. Initially, it for his own rehabilitation. He even taught the other inmates. For Christmas gifts, he made booties and sweaters for his granddaughters. He made a Winnie the Pooh and Piglet for his grandson. And for me, he made blankets. Lots of blankets. Blue ones, pink ones, some with flowers, some with tassels. One has become a sort of favorite of mine. I don’t get to use it much in Florida, of course. It’s not the prettiest thing either. It’s brown and white and doesn’t match any décor in my house.

This holiday we did some shifting around of furniture in our house and I went looking for my blanket. I checked every linen closet and storage bin. I checked the garage and under all the beds. I couldn’t find it. I got a little frantic. I finally found it at the bottom of a bedroom closet, its mismatched squares standing out. I grabbed it, hugged it to my chest, and imagined as I did so many other times, my father sitting in his cell, his crochet needle flashing, the skeins of yarn stretched out beside him on his bed, and my brown blanket slowly forming under his patient hands. And I started to sob.

God, I miss my dad.

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