I have a picture that was taken when I was six years old. I remember the day, at least in the way anyone can remember forty years past. My dad had just taught me my very first song, ‘Lovesick Blues’ by Hank Williams, and told me if I kept practicing, I could be a professional yodeler someday. In the picture, he is sitting in a chair and I have my arms around his neck. He always had a way of making me feel special.
I have another, taken when I was twenty. There was a party going on, I don’t remember the occasion, but he and I had ended up in the kitchen, away from the crowd, having a drink and telling each other jokes. He made fun of my boyish haircut. I called him Sonny Bono. He’s sitting in a chair and I have my arms around his neck. He always had a way of letting me know that he loved me.
The night before he died, he told me how proud he was that I had grown into a good mother: a good woman. I put my arms around his neck. I remember it well. I don’t need a picture.
It has been eleven years and Valentine’s Day has never been the same. It was his birthday and this year would have been his seventy-third. If he were here, he would make me yodel for him and I would make fun of him for being so old. Then I would walk up behind him and wrap my arms around his neck.
I still think of him every single day. My father, my daddy, my friend, my first valentine.