After school every day and more often in the summer, my chubby 5 year-old legs climb the steep steps that lead to Daddy Todd’s house. I ring the doorbell and he opens the door, picks me up and swings me up high, with the giant laughter. It’s dark in there, with a musty smell like an old man. Which he is. Daddy Todd is the only name for him that I know.
We do many things in that house, we spend lots of hours together, just me and Daddy Todd. We play with his tailless cat, Stubby. I get to open the glorious top drawer of the bureau which is filled with Hershey bars!!! And gum!!! My Mom never lets us have that stuff. Our snacks are more of the raisin, apple, and sunflower-seed variety. We go behind the house and pick the rhubarb. I eat some of the sour stalks right there in the yard, after he wipes the dirt off with his shirttail, and he laughs at my pucker. I take some home for my Mom to make into pies.
On the wide porch in the old creaky rocking chair, I sit on his lap. He listens to me read and reminds me how smart I am. He reads to me. Daddy Todd rubs my little back. He tells me how he and Stubby love my visits, look forward to them.
What does not happen there, in that house 2 blocks away from my home in northern Indiana….is anything inappropriate. There is nothing called abuse, there is no bad at all. It is simply a friendship between an old man and a little girl, and it goes on for years.
I hear the dinner bell when my Mom rings it, scamper down the steps and off down the sidewalk. Looking back at Daddy Todd, waving at him waving at me. “See ya tomorrow”, I yell. “Not if I see you first!”, he yells back. We try to do this as loudly as we can. I guess, to show how much we mean it.
In shocking and horrible news, I am told that we will be moving to Texas after my 3rd grade year. I run as fast as I can the blocks to Daddy Todd’s house, crying. He comforts me, tells me it will be fine. He reminds me that I am a strong girl, that I am the strongest girl he knows. I notice him swipe away the tear on his wrinkly cheek as he says this.
On the day that we are to leave, he gives me a poem written on yellow legal paper.
“Each hour of the day as I sit here alone, I wonder how long till the schoolkids come home……..
Today, I’m sad that I could never see a relationship like this happen between Daddy Todd and my grand-daughter. Absolutely not! It would be suspect, dangerous…negligent on my part to allow it. I am sad for the lost innocence. That the wonderful hours I spent with Daddy Todd would not be possible in this day, in this time, for any of my little girls.
The little girl in this story is 53 years old now. I’m grateful that I was allowed that time, in the innocent day. Remembering that old man, I smile. For the purity of it. The words. The time. The love. The cat. And…….the chocolate.
writing prompt: a character from your neighborhood