First Place

My stepfather missed what some consider the most important firsts in their child’s life. He wasn’t there for my first smile, my first word, my first tooth, first step, or first birthday.

He didn’t come into my life until I was four. However, although he missed my babyhood, the poor guy more than made up for the firsts he missed as I grew.

He bought me my first bike and taught me how to ride it. I can still hear his feet pounding the grass in our back yard as he ran behind me holding my bike steady.

You know, I could ride that bike as long as I knew he was there. But once I missed the sound of his steps I fell. Dad would be a few yards back hunched over, bracing his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. He’d smile, his face red and glistening with sweat, and say, “You did good, Sis. Let’s try again.”

 In my first year of school, Dad listened to me read about Dick and Jane in my first reader. Mom loves to tell the story of how I’d pause and stumble while reading for her, but when I read for Dad, I wouldn’t miss a beat or a word. What she didn’t know was that Dad had promised me that I could stay up late and watch television with him if I did a good job. He always knew how to motivate me!

He bought me my first car and taught me how to drive it. And while it didn’t physically wear him out, I’m sure his heart pounded as hard as his feet did when he ran behind me on my bike.

He was there for my first date. Before my date arrived, Dad pulled me aside, pushed a dime in my palm and whispered, “Sis, put this in your shoe. If that boy gets out of line, you call me and I’ll come get you.” That dime in my shoe reminded me all evening that I had a champion at home and I was safe.

 On the day of my wedding he walked me down the aisle, patting my hand to reassure me and himself that we’d be okay.

He held my first child, and a few months later held me when my husband left us. He helped me walk through that dark valley and rejoiced with me when I married my husband, Neal. Years later he held my first grandchild.

My Dad may have missed the important firsts that new fathers experience. But I don’t care about that. He was there for the “firsts” that I remember and I will treasure those memories as long as I live.

Thanks, Dad. You were there for what really matters.