What Can a Father and Daughter Talk About?

by John C. Westervelt

Mary Kim and Nelda, throughout high school and college and for nine more years, talked about drama and other mother-daughter things. I have come to understand that relationships depend on sharing words, but it is difficult because of my shy beginnings.

On Mary Kimís birthday nine months after Nelda died, I gathered Mary Kimís grandmother, her Aunt Harriette, and her cousin Kathy for the drive to Dallas to celebrate. For each of her next seven birthdays, I went to Dallas, at first with women from my family, and finally alone. In recent years I have flown down on Saturday morning and back the same evening.

On the first birthday trip, as we covered three malls, Harriette and Kathy suggested I buy a Coach bag (purse) since Mary Kim traveled almost every week in her computer software job. The first year this was over budget. The budget was adjusted, and the Coach-bag tradition continued the subsequent six years. After a midmorning arrival, Mary Kim and I would enjoy muffins at the French Bakery in one mall before moving on to another mall for the Coach bags. Often there was a stop at the hardware store for parts for an apartment repair. Last fall, after fifteen years of living in apartments, Mary Kim bought a new home.

For this yearís birthday celebration, my flight left Tulsa at seven in the morning. This would be a longer day than normal. I suppose it is not too unusual for a shy father to wonder what heíll talk about for so many hours. As I questioned, I asked for Jesusí help.

Walking from the Love field terminal to the parking area, I asked about shopping for a Coach bag. Mary Kim said, "I would rather have help on a wrought-iron love seat. But first, letís drive by for some muffins and stop at home so I can show you some other needs for my patio area."

As the day progressed, talking seemed easy as we discussed:

How to tie a young tree to straighten its growth.

How to get a shepherdís hook into the ground to hold a bird feeder.

How to get the cover off of a loose Moen faucet handle in order to tighten the screw inside.

How to make a scaled drawing of some windows for sketching window treatments.

We gathered materials at the hardware store and shared time on the shovel to work these jobs. At one point Mary Kim asked, "How come you taught Paul how to do these things and not me?"

I had no answer. Could it have been a girl-boy thing?

The jobs were finished. Other needed conversation about Mary Kimís editing of my stories was crowded into a hurried drive to catch my six oíclock flight to Tulsa.

With eyes closed on a smooth flight north, I recalled my request for Jesusí help in visiting with my daughter. I found Him to be trustworthy.

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