tonia johnston photography | Railroad tracks, bunnies and daddy

Railroad tracks, bunnies and daddy

June 19, 2011

I have a love for railroad tracks.

When I was younger, my Daddy would take me walking on them over by Tip Top nursery in Tempe (I don’t know if the nursery is still there or not). We would see jack rabbits in front of us as we walked, hear traffic from the street behind us. I know we talked the whole time, but I can’t remember the conversations. I was probably between 7 & 9 at the time.

I now have this never-ending love for railroad tracks, trains and yes, rabbits. I still get excited and call them out when I see them. I now scope out the best railroad track in town to shoot at. They never fail me.

I’m wishing today that I could tell Daddy Happy Father’s day. I try really hard to live my life without regrets but I regret all of the lost time all of the lost years that I can’t get back.

I didn’t see him a lot growing up, but when I did it was always an adventure. He lived out in the middle of nowhere and of course back then, kids could roam around with no worries. I used to build go carts, climb trees, swing in the hammock. My first look under the hood of a car was with Daddy and to this day I long to rebuild an engine.

Eggs, coffee, sausage and grits for breakfast, Red Man chew, ashy legs and hair that desperately needed to be picked. Memories of my Daddy.

One time when I was a teenager he called the house for my sister and I answered the phone. He asked for her and asked who he was talking to and when I told him my name his response was “who?” My Dad and his sense of humor. He really was a very funny man in a quiet sort of way. He had this ability to call people by the wrong name – consistently, like it REALLY was their name. My brother-in-law got that end of the stick. Anyway, I got mad. So mad that I didn’t talk to Daddy for YEARS! At least 12. I figured that if he didn’t know the name of his youngest daughter that he didn’t need to talk to me! So stupid. So, so, stupid. I am sure that he was joking, but at the time my teenage arrogance couldn’t see past that. I was hurt. I was angry. I was jealous. And my pride would not let me move past it.

I’ve always told my husband that if he met my Dad in a bar, he would love him. He’s quiet, he’s hilarious, he’s smart and insightful.

When I found out Daddy had cancer, it rocked me. I was wishing I could see him, I always had. Even when I was angry. I say it all the time, “A Daddy is a girl’s first love.” When it is missing, it’s all you want. My husband had enough sense to say enough is enough. He made the arrangements and flew Daddy and my Step-mother to Pennsylvania.

That winter was the first and last time I had seen my Dad. The first time I had ever seen him as an adult, the first time I had ever seen him cry, the first time I got to have a conversation with him other than the price of shoes that I remember. As sick as he was, we went for walks. One up a mountain. We found the perfect Christmas tree to cut. Daddy and I sat and smoked cigars while my husband cut the tree. The other walk was by the railroad tracks.

I learned a lot from Daddy in that short amount of time. That he did in fact love me, he had never forgotten me like I thought he had. I learned that he was stronger than I gave him credit for. I learned that he was HUMAN. I learned that we had a lot in common.

Most importantly, I learned to forgive him and myself.

I regret all of that self-imposed lost time. I wish I could go back and fix it on my own. But I don’t know that I could have come to some sort of closure had our reunion happened any earlier. I don’t think I would have been adult enough for it to happen. And without Rusty making that phone call, I don’t know that I would have had enough guts to do it on my own.

Daddy has been gone now for 5 years I think from breast cancer, I tend to lose track of time. And really, it doesn’t matter because I miss him just the same.

So, today I sit on my back porch sending out mental Happy Father Day thoughts. To Daddy, & my husband. Neither one of them is here with me. Daddy for obvious reasons, my husband because he travels for work and has been gone for a month now. The two of them so woven together in my mind. Without one, I would have never had the other. Without them both, I would never know what it is to be able to truly appreciate a Father’s love. I am forever grateful to them both. My husband for being an awesome father – even when he is the road. My Daddy, just for telling me he loved me.