He was there the day she was born. He held her up to the window and told her the world was hers for the taking. She was small in his big hands. He was thankful she couldn't feel the calluses on his hands from years of hard work in the factory. He vowed she would never have calluses of her own.
He was there when she was two. She'd run up to him again and again, every time with a new thing to read or learn about. Thank goodness for her short attention span because he couldn't read very well.
He was there when she was four. She was the tiniest kid in the whole kindergarten class. But she answered every single question. He knew because she came home with the letters from the teacher begging her to give the other kids a chance.
He was there when she was five. She woke up one day and couldn't get out of bed. Her leg didn't feel right she said. The hospital confirmed the worst. They kept her for months on end. He visited every day he could. His wife never did. So much for the Salk vaccine. So much for a cure.
He was there when she was six. They brought her home on her birthday, just before Christmas. Everything was different now, and he kicked himself every time she tripped or couldn't get to something she wanted. Or needed.
He was there too when the other parents told him she was a distraction. Then just teach your kids not to stare he said. It was no use. She was homeschooled the following Monday.
He was there from the time she was six through the time she was fourteen. They were the quiet years. His wife refused to tell her the truth about why she didn't go to school, but she was too smart for them. The answers on the sheet were never wrong, but the answers out loud were never offered anymore.
He was there when she was fifteen. She complained that her leg, which she had worked so hard to make stronger, was feeling weaker and weaker again. Apparently polio was not just a disease that took once but can take again. The doctor told her this time it wouldn't get stronger. He went out into the yard that night and found a large tree branch to carve into a crutch. He won't say it, but it was far bigger than when he started. Then again woodworking had always been his stress relief
He was there through what should have been high school. She was so fast and so smart that she was done by sixteen. He wanted her to be one of those kids who finished college in a year or was a lawyer by twenty. She could have been too. His wife wouldn't let her.
He was there when she turned eighteen. Nothing changed. She didn't party or stay out late. She sat inside and read her books. Part of him wanted her to go. Part of him wanted her to stay. When he told her this, she would squeeze his hand. He could feel the calluses on her palms. So much for his vow.
He was there when she started college. Everything he wanted for her was coming true. But his wife had written the tuition check on one condition. His daughter had agreed because going to the university was more important than whatever she studied. She didn't seem to mind. He did.
He was there when she found her friends. They were all different but somehow they fit together perfectly. They ran around together, four kids and a dog, solving mysteries. And they were good at it too. He was happy. At last she had the life he had wanted for her, and he didn't care one bit that it meant leaving him behind.
Not one bit.