Most little girls, if they are lucky, grow up as "Daddy's Little Girl", and get that special trust of knowing that they are loved by the greatest man in the world. How many get visible proof of that love, though? I did, many times over, but this is one occasion that is still with me, even after 19 years.
The year was 1981, I was 16, and I had been diagnosed with lupus for three years. There was a lot of hospital time in those early years, as we all came to an understanding with this difficult disease. My Dad was always there for me, saving up his vacation time from work so that he could sit bedside with me and keep me occupied.
The hospital I was in most of the time had a special area for the ambulatory patients, the PLAZA--even now I feel a special little thrill at that word, for it meant that I was feeling a little bit better and could get out of the hospital room and feel like a normal human being, if only for a little while. They had vending machines, video games, a nice sunny terrace, and lots of tables to sit and visit with friends and loved ones. Games have always been big in my family, and I can recall the two of us going down to the Plaza with the Scrabble game and Dad with a pocket full of quarters for whatever I wanted--candy bars or video games or whatever--maybe I was a little spoiled, but every sick child deserves a little spoiling, I think.
Well, at home was my Atari, and my Pac-man game--I hadn't had it long, and was missing it's unique form of entertainment. I should also mention the time of year--it was almost Thanksgiving, the holidays were rapidly approaching, and I guess I was a bit fearful I would never get to see home again--hospitals are dreadfully depressing places, after all.
So when the K-Mart sale paper came out, what did my eager eye spy, but an unbelievable thing! A TABLE TOP PAC-MAN GAME!! It seemed custom-made for me, and I don't imagine it took too much begging to convince my wonderful pop that this was something that I absolutely could not live without.
Of course, this was THE toy of that year, the hottest item, the one that everyone absolutely had to have, but I didn't know about things like supply and demand, or marketing techniques designed to whip consumers into a buying frenzy. I only knew that my Dad told me he would get it, and so it was a done deal.
Now my dad is not the shopper in the family, nor is he the type that gets out unnecessarily, but when those doors at K-Mart opened the day after Thanksgiving for that horrible shopping day, my Dad was there.
I can only imagine the scene, but since I have been through a couple myself, I know it was horrible--lots of shouting and running about snatching at the prime items. Perhaps my Dad was caught unaware himself, for when he reached the display with the Pac-man games, the shelves were barren--they had already been grabbed by the more knowledgeable shoppers.
My eyes even now fill with tears imagining his stricken face--the knowledge that his little girl was lying in that hospital trusting him to return with the prize, and him knowing that it wasn't going to happen--what undue pressure our parents must feel to live up to our expectations.
But now the truly miraculous part, the totally out-of-character part, the thing that convinced me utterly of my father's love for me--standing there beside the ravaged display was a fellow shopper, a woman who had been a bit fleeter of foot than my Dad. In her buggy sat two of the prized games--I don't know how it came out, whether he volunteered the information or if the woman questioned him as to why he was so upset, but he explained to her about his daughter in that lonely little hospital room waiting trustingly for this simple little thing, something to cheer her and take her mind off her aches and pains.
Well, the true spirit of Christmas was in that store that day, for this wonderful woman kindly and unselfishly gave up one of those games, turning it over to my Dad to purchase for me. Of course I didn't know any of this until later, I was a child and didn't really understand about how love can make you do things for others that you would never ordinarily do--my Dad sharing something like that with a stranger is not an event I can see having happened many times in his life, but he was my hero, and he did what he had to do to live up to that image I had of him.
That game filled lots of long hours in the hospital--it even had a two player mode, and we shared many a game on those long lonesome hospital days--I still have that game, though it quit working so long ago that I can barely even remember playing it now. But the knowledge of my Dad's love for me is firmly attached to that piece of plastic, and it will forever remain one of my treasured possessions. How could I part with something that proved to me that my Dad was, indeed, the greatest man that ever lived? I love you, Dad! Happy Father's Day!!
ęSAB June 18, 2000