Originally posted October 8, 2012
When I was a little girl, my best friend was a one-eyed Shetland pony named Sugar. With a special needs sister who was allergic to everything and scared of horses, and a mother who was always busy trying to figure out how to help her, I was alone a lot. Although it didn't seem that way to me. Sugar was there. I braided her hair and rode her around wherever she wanted to go. Dad said no saddle until I learned to ride bareback. She wasn't the best-mannered pony but I think we had an understanding and she liked me. To this day, the smell of horse sweat, hay and leather makes me instantly remember home.
My second best friend was my dad. To me, my father could do no wrong. All fun things centered around him. He cut a special little door in the side of the barn for me so I could get in there easily and play in the hay bales or feed the horses treats. We'd walk around the woods looking for deer or mushrooms, or young trees to transplant to our large, newly created yard. In the fall, we'd cut wood for our wood-burning stove and I sometimes got to drive the truck back into town. He tied a giant rope swing to my favorite tree in the horse pasture in which I spent hours doodling in the dust underneath it. He let me "help" with whatever project needed to be done around the house. Be it cleaning out the flue on the roof, or painting the shed, he always let me assist him by handing him tools or answering my endless questions. On Halloween one year, my mom had taken me and my sister trick-or-treating and we had just pulled up in the driveway. It was dark by then and as we were walking to the house, I heard "WooooOOOO" and my father comes jumping off the roof in a sheet. My sister started screaming and crying. I got a big case of the giggles and was filled with awe that my DAD JUMPED OFF THE ROOF FOR US.
When I was 11, my parents divorced and I felt terribly betrayed. My two best friends were leaving me and we were moving to town. Wow, I was angry. In that way that a young kid gets angry when they have little understanding of the world. Everything changed and my "home" was gone forever. It's funny how that happens. As a kid, it never occurs to you that things change and life goes on.
It took years, but I "forgave" my dad and we now enjoy the same type of relationship we had when I was a child. While he may not have always understood my decisions, he has always been my biggest fan (even keeping and displaying with pride those horrid first paintings in art school), my most consistent advisor, my strength in hard times, and my Home. Beating cancer once, it has reappeared and he's fighting it with a wink and a smile. It breaks my heart that this man who has given so much to so many has to endure this horrible thing and I can't simply hand him tools and ask him questions to help. He told me once, that all he wants is for me "to grow up to be a good person." So that is what I'm trying to do -- grow up. It's hard focusing on work when my Daddy is nearly 1000 miles away and going through this thing. He told me I'd better stop taking this so hard or he was "going to skip chemo and come up and beat my ass." Ha! Guess I know what I need to do.
Thinking of horse sweat and home,