When Hannah was a baby, she would put the side of her face against mine like they were both pieces to the same jigsaw puzzle. Her arms would wrap themselves around my neck and we would stay clung to each other like Siamese twins. Emma used to find a cozy spot right under my neck that her head fit under while simultaneously curling herself up into a tight fetal ball at my ribcage. These are my girls. They are daddy’s little girls. It is my job to protect them. To love them, play with them, let them know how much I adore them, and of course, most importantly, to brainwash them in to believing boys are as poisonous as the poisonous dart frog (very poisonous…look it up, I did).
I know soon I’ll be ‘Daddy’ only when they want something or be known as “You are so embarrassing”. Soon their mother will steal them away from me for shopping sprees at the mall and to talk about their hair or something else I have none of (hair) or care about. For right now? They continue to be Daddy’s little girls. A title I eat up. A standing, were it up to me, I would not share with anyone else. Were it up to me. But, as any parent knows, most decisions like this usually boils down to being up to our kids. This is why I am not the only one in my kids’ lives to share such a high honor. Because it is up to my children, there is someone else. That someone else is their grandfather.
My father in law is a self-made man. He grew up in South Philly, without a father of his own. He worked his way through college. He spent time in the military. He was the youngest VP in the history of a mortgage company in Philadelphia. He started and ran his own construction business. Even now, during a time when he should be winding down and working on his 15’ putts, he continues to work part time in the construction industry. At first meeting, my father in law has a certain hard coated shell. You can sense his iron will. It doesn’t take before you’ll notice his Italian stubbornness. His temper, once whispered about in 6 counties, has lain dormant for years (but given the right shift could be subject to awakening then you’re going to want to get out of his way). He has never hid how much he loves his family, he would give the shirt off of his back to anyone of us, and would no doubt wrestle a grizzly to protect us. The respect and admiration (and a little bit of fear) I have for my father in law is endless. He is as much my father as he is my wife’s father. He has been the rock our family has anchored itself to when life got choppy. He’s our dad. That is how I know him.
My kids know him as Grandpop, the man who they cling to like Ramoras to the belly of a Tiger Shark. He is a patient in their “doctor’s office”. They ask for him when they talk to my mother in law on the phone. They are his “interns” in his home office (even inviting them in as he does his work). He goes on the computer with them. He sleeps in the spare bedroom when they sleepover at his house so they can sleep with their Grandmom. He is never put out by them and never is too busy to listen to what they are saying. He is on the floor with them. He will sit and watch the Disney channel and Nickelodeon with them just so they can snuggle next to him. Whispers are not about tempers only when they play “Pass it Along”. There is no hard coated shell. No stubbornness. His iron will holds up around his granddaughters about as well as a piece of rebar in a smelting pot.
I know the three of them together is truly a sight to see. I know how lucky they are to share such an incredible bond with each one another. I know I was reluctant to share my standing with my girls with anyone else but I also know its okay that Daddy’s little girls are also Grandpop’s little girls too.