Gotta hold on easy as I let you go
Gonna tell you how much I love you
Though you think you already know
I remember I thought you looked like an angel
Wrapped in pink, so soft and warm
You’ve had me wrapped around your finger
Since the day you were born
You’re beautiful baby from the outside in
Chase your dreams but always know the road
That’ll lead you home again
Go on, take on this whole world
But to me you know you’ll always be, my little girl
ORRALL, ROBERT ELLIS/PETTIS, PIERCE
First and foremost, I love you! I just need to let you know how you have impacted my life. The time has flown and in only two weeks, “Daddy’s little girl” will be married. It is almost inconceivable to me where the time has gone but I knew this day was a coming. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic and need to reflect on our life together. I have all sort of feelings at the moment and wanted to remind you, that you will always be my little girl and my love for you will never change and really how proud I am of you.
I can actually remember the moment you were conceived. I know that might sound weird but I can pinpoint the time because I just knew something special had occurred. Your mother and I had discussed children and thought we were ‘mature’ enough to have and raise a child so it was a natural progression in our life. Words came down from above and told me that I was going to be a dad. I just knew…….
The day mom came home confirming her pregnancy I was filled with great joy. Mom and I had made the decision to not tell anybody until Christmas 1987 and announce the pregnancy at that time as a special Christmas present to our families. You would be the first grandchild on both sides of our families and that is something we were quite proud to announce and in a way that would be remembered. It was tough on mom as she wanted to let people know and of course I was already feeling prideful. Christmas came around and it was a magical day in Payson. It actually snowed and it snowed and it snowed and it is about the only White Christmas I can really recall in Payson. It was sort of mystical. You had the touch even before you were born.
Mom had been back in to running and I was amazed at how much she ran while carrying you. She didn’t gain much weight and I knew you would be a healthy one. You were already getting an aerobic workout. We would travel to Mesa to visit Mom’s doctor and were given the opportunity to find out if we were having a boy or a girl but we didn’t want to and I am so thankful that we didn’t. It just kept building excitement for us.
The day soon came when you were ready to arrive and mom woke me up stating that her water had broke and we had to get rolling. From Payson, we piled in the 1984 Mazda RX7 (we were really prepared with a sports car as our transportation) and away we went, on a Saturday morning, July 2, 1988 traveling against the wave of cars headed up the Beeline for the July 4th Weekend. (We later found out that we had left the house door wide open due to being so excited) The good news was we were packed and going to stay in Mesa due to the possibility of mom going in to labor and making sure we were not going to deal with traffic jams on the way to the hospital. Back in those days, Hwy 87 was a two-lane highway that always seemed to have pileups of traffic. Thankfully we were the only ones headed south since there was no way one could pass due to the bumper to bumper crowd headed north. I put on the Allman Brothers cassette for some traveling music. About halfway there “Rambling Man” comes on and one of the lines is about being born in the back of the bus driving down a highway and we were not saying a thing as I white-knuckled us to Desert Samaritan Hospital. As we approached, I had to stop and get some food from some fast food joint (either Carl’s Jr. or Jack in the Box) and I got me a couple breakfast sandwiches. Carolyn was in a panic as the contractions were coming fast and strong but she never said a thing except: please hurry!”
We arrived in style, me carrying my sandwiches in a bag, and fully adrenalized for the special event. As fate would have it, Carolyn’s doctor, Dr. Linnerson. was on vacation so we had a substitute, Dr. Abate who ended up being a hoot. As you arrived into this world, my own world changed forever. At 12:15 p.m., I was a dad and that meant everything to me. I’ll never forget the joy holding you for the very first time. You looked like an angel. It’s weird Caitlin, but I had already starting thinking about your wedding day, as I glanced into the future.
As I have shared with you, my childhood was quite painful and I felt great pressure to be a Dad you would be thankful for having. I was going to do the best I could to be a loving father that you would be proud to claim as your own. I’ve had some misses along the way but during the ups and the downs of life, we have persevered and I think you are better for it. Life was never easy and I was never the best example but I always loved you in my darkest moments and my brightest moments. You were the one that kept me going because I never wanted to let you down.
Through the years I have watched you grow into an amazing young lady. I was never an easy dad, but you know that I loved you more than life. You were and always will be my pride and joy. Your abilities in so many areas were simply amazing.
The adventures mom and I took you on in the great outdoors were something special. Hanging out by the rivers, hiking and picking up cans was something out of the ordinary. We took you hikes from the very beginning and probably some dangerous ones as I strapped you on my back and away we would go.
Eventually, the Fosters, Max and Kay joined in with the “Cans for Caitlin” program as an activity to jump start your college fund. What is sort of funny is all those cans we picked up and sold netted us around $150 over that long period of time so I guess that jump start didn’t work out so well but it still was fun.
Back in those days, I often would take you to happy hours where we would wait on mom to arrive from work on Friday nights. You were such a charmer (sort of like me maybe?) and the attention you would attract. You were sort of like the little puppy in the park as the bar patrons would come from everywhere to tell me what a cute and sweet girl I had. I would get comments about what a great father for spending time with you in a bar. Sort of ironic but I guess they could see that we were pretty close. Those moments were priceless. Oh was I prideful. I’m not certain what people will think knowing that I would hang out in bars with you but we sure bonded. Those were some special father/daughter moments as we could just talk and you would draw and color in the darkness of the places. (Probably not the best way to raise a kid but it worked for us). I can remember holding you and dancing to the Steve Winwood song “Roll With It” and U2‘s “Even Better Than The Real Thing”. We had so much fun dancing and twirling around.
I took you everywhere and you became very comfortable around adults at such an early age. The time you threw your popcorn shrimp across the Red Lobster restaurant sticks in my mind because the server said that she didn’t mind because you were so happy and not screaming like the other little ones.
I can never forget the excitement you had when Mom and I told you we were expecting another child. Oh my, you were all excited about becoming a big sister. And along came Jordyn and what a great big sister you were and are. You were such a natural. You were so protective of your sister and grew up very comfortable with children. You had all these instinctive motherly attributes that I can see why you were such a sought after child sitter. You had the touch.
Those preschool days turned to school days and I know I could never ever get you everything that others had (growing up without x-box, play stations, etc.) But I always tried my best to give you all of me. You became an avid reader and a great student. The times we spent playing whiffle ball are memorable. I know you sure remember my “brush back” pitches. The simple things of shooting baskets, throwing the Frisbee, hiking the rivers, and playing whiffle ball will always be permanently engraved on my brain.
Caitlin, I hope you remember those trips to go and ride the coasters at Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm in CA .We just loved the coasters. Do you remember that coaster outside of Vegas that we had to ride since it was the largest drop in the world at that time? I remembering you screaming and crying as we flew down the coaster and I also remember that you got right back on it rode it several more times. Wow, was that ever fun.
In my youthful days, I had grown up hating church and I worked hard not to have you feeling that way. You seemed to enjoy all the activities and having Mom involved with you on the quizzing and the church plays was a joy for me to watch. I hope you always retain that spirituality that I have struggled with throughout my life. You always knew what was right and what was wrong. I tried my best to have you involved in the church and it soon led us to Third Day and some really special moments. I can still see you up on the stage with Mac singing “Come Together“ in Phoenix. (Another prideful moment!)
I realize that being an assistant principal was really tough on you when you went through those high school days but somehow you came through and I will always feel those guilty pangs of how miserable you had to be from the way others treated you due to my position. You made it and did so well. I had made a conscious effort not to be a pushy father and I think it worked as you learned to fight your own battles and to stand up for what you believe. And to think you still know how to stand up for what you believe. I’m proud of that!
You go off to ASU and we weren’t the wealthy ones who could provide lots of financial support but you made it through with tremendous efforts of working and being a student and graduating with no debt. I find that astonishing. God surely blessed you with opportunities to work and receive financial help by placing you in the right places at the right times.
I’ll never forget your show of love when I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my face. You went all out to show how much you cared. Or the time you drove all the way to Payson to stand in front of the Payson Unified School District School Board and let them and know how you felt. I couldn’t have been prouder of you. Your show of support will always be remembered by me. You didn’t have to do those things but you did. Your passion and ability to stand for what you believe has continued. I hope that you keep that passion as long as you live.
Watching you grow into an independent, free thinking young woman has added to my pride. Before long you met that special guy that I knew would come along and sweep you off your feet. I have to admit, that was tough on me but I too can grow and learn and support the fact that my little girl has found her wings and soared and now has made the ultimate decision that I hope and pray lasts a lifetime. As that day rapidly approaches, I know that a change is a coming. I give you off trusting that you have found your life mate. Our relationship will take a turn as another man has now replaced me as the most important one in your life–as it should be.
To be continued.