Daddy's Little Larry
The unbreakable bond between a father and his daughter
My father gave me the sex talk during a Celtics halftime show when I was 20. After watching a commercial in which a fellow father fumbled through his own birds and the bees speech, mine sat up from his recliner and asked, “Well, are you ready?”
“For what? The second half? Yes! Halftime always takes too long.”
“No. The talk.”
“What talk? The sex talk?”
He nodded his head.
“Sure, dad, hit me. I can’t wait to hear this one.”
“Well, honey, I know you’re in college. I know you go to parties, and I know you drink. But here’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to buy a big, long coat. One with lots of zippers and lots of buttons. Then, you wear that coat to parties and you don’t take it off. With so many zippers and buttons, no one will be able to get inside.”
“That’s how I’ll avoid pregnancy?”
“By wearing a big, long coat?”
“With lots of zippers and buttons. Yes.”
“Anything else you’d like to say?”
“All right then.”
And that was it. My father seemed at ease. The game came back on and Ray Allen sank some threes.
The history my father and I share has been tumultuous yet stable, serious yet sarcastic, jovial yet grim. For a while, it’s been just the two of us. My mother passed away after an eight-year battle with breast cancer. At the time, I was 12, my sister was getting ready to live on her own and my dad was still dealing with the prior year’s death of his parents. It all seemed like too much to deal with, but the tight-knit relationship we already had only wound tighter, because we were forced to overcome everything together. In a journal that my mother started keeping for me when I was a newborn, she wrote, “Lauren loves her papa more than anything.” I did, and I still do.
I can tell you that he mows his lawn every Monday. He hates chocolate ice cream, but loves snacking on cashews. He used to have a designated chair in the corner of my dance studio’s waiting room, and was the token male among the flock of females who sat tying the pastel ribbons of their daughter’s shiny tap shoes.
I can tell you that when I was diagnosed with mono my freshman year of college, he jumped in his Santa Fe and drove down to Boston, picked me up, turned around and drove me right back home to Maine. On the day of my sister’s wedding, he walked her down the aisle with tears in his eyes. And when I have tears in my own, he knows to buy me Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream.
I can tell you we started watching wrestling together when I was four-years-old and that he began coaching me in soccer and basketball only a few years later. Because I was the tomboy of the family, he started calling me “Larry” instead of “Lauren,” and started “cheating” during our pick-up backyard basketball games by bouncing the ball in between my legs, popping up on the other side and then casually making the game-winning lay-up. His former coach called him an exceptional team player during his induction into the Southern Maine Community College Athletics Hall of Fame. I prefer calling him “Dunk Dazzle.”
I can lastly tell you he has constantly worked overtime to help put me through school in this city and that, at the end of the day, I call him my best friend.
While he’s watched me grow up, I’ve watched him grow up too. After the death of his father, mother and wife, he only grew stronger, perhaps more for the benefit of us, his confused children, than for anyone else. Over the years, he’s transformed into the person I turn to in times of sadness, happiness, fear and remorse. He’s the one I crack jokes with, banter back and forth with and receive text messages from early every Monday morning. “Good morning, my lovely daughters. Hope you have a wonderful day and week. Love you, Papa.” He’s the family man with the characteristics I model my ideal husband after. Strong-willed, optimistic and considerate. Compassionate, silly and generous.
Every now and again, before leaving the house, my dad will shoot me a swift reminder.
“Remember, Larry. Wear a big, long coat.”
“With lots of zippers and buttons, right dad?”
“Yes, lots of zippers and buttons.”