When I was around five or six, my heart was already broken. I know it’s sad. Most girls my age still haven’t had their first heartbreak, but I have a reasonable explanation for it. See, it used to be absolutely heart wrenching to talk about, but now, it’s easier. My dad, James Dean, was the sweetest man I knew. Sweeter than sugar, spice, and everything nice. But he broke my heart. He loved me, I knew, which is why it puzzled me for so many years after his death and I asked myself, “What did I do wrong?”
James was no ordinary man. He loved my mom. He loved me, and he loved my sister, Tahylor. Though she wasn’t his child, he loved her just as if she were. I was most definitely a daddy’s girl, no doubt. He would take me fishing, riding, camping, and anywhere I could imagine. (Why wasn’t I thinking of going to Hawaii?). Any-who, he never sat still, he was always moving around whether it be a jog, or to a different state to watch a race. Sounds familiar right? The whole ADHD thing? I remember a conversation with him about it.
“Daddy, why are we always going places?” I asked. I had always gone wherever he went. He’d jog slow if I wanted to run with him, and he always kept a pillow and blanket (clean of course) in the backseat of his truck so whenever we went long distances, I could sleep comfortably.
“Sweetheart, daddy can’t hold still, but daddy can’t leave his baby,” he replied. He lifted the corner of his lips so that they curled into his special half smile.
“But why don’t we always take momma and sissy with us?” I questioned him further, still puzzled at this thought.
“Because momma and sissy don’t like moving around like us honey,” he said, not letting his gaze fall away from the road. We were on our way to watch a motocross race. Our family friends were participating, which gave us more of a reason to go. I wanted to ask him, why do we like to move so much though? But I didn’t.
About a month or so after this conversation, my dad was going to go watch a race in (Florida I believe) with a bunch of his friends. They had intentions of staying there for about a week and a half but when I called my daddy on the fifth day, we had our last conversation.
“Daddy, can you hear me?” I asked. The connection on our home phone was terrible anyways, but he wasn’t responding.
“Of course I can baby, daddy’s just a little distracted,” was his response. It was quick, and fake. “What’s wrong daddy? Why do you sound so scared?” I wanted to ask so badly, but I didn’t. I should have.
“Oh, okay,” I said hesitantly. “When are you coming home?”
“Baby, daddy’s always home, okay? Don’t ever ask when I’m coming home when I’m already there, holding your hand.” he sighed. He sounded like he was about to cry. “Look honey, daddy has to go, but don’t you ever forget what I told you. I love you so much sweetheart. Okay?”
“Okay Daddy. Be super duper careful. I love you so much Laffy!” I shouted, trying not to let the knot in my throat catch my fake enthusiasm.
“I love you so much Taffy.” I heard a click and he was gone. I went to bed thinking about how he hadn’t responded to my ‘be careful’.
My mom woke me up at about 4 a.m. the next morning, she had just got done crying. Maybe not quite done.
“Jazz… momma just got a call. Do you know the big police men? You remember learning about them?” she said, clearly choking up on every word.
“Yeah momma. Why are we up so early? Why are you crying?” I half replied, attempting and failing at rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
“Well those big police gave me a call. They found your daddy’s truck out on a bridge on the Big River. You know where that’s at?” she asked, trying to force smile and also failing, instead just showing her teeth a little. I didn’t bother to answer her question.
“Daddy went fishing off a bridge? Without me? We’ve never done that before, he wouldn’t try something new without me. Where is he now momma?” I questioned, so innocently.
“No, no, honey. Daddy’s gone. The big police called momma, they can’t find him.” she finished and began a small sob. I couldn’t cry, because I sat in so much shock. There was no longer sleep on my brain, only my daddy. My head began throbbing and didn’t stop ‘till three days later when they found my daddy, on the bank of the big river.
You’re probably wondering what my gift is, greatest apologies really. A few days after my daddy’s funeral (the last I ever went to), my momma took the ring he gave me a year or two before and had it melted down with his ashes. His ring was split into two, one for me and one for my mom. Mine is a beautiful gold band with a rhinestone of purity on top. I still can’t figure if that last phone call had anything to do with what happened. I question it a lot, maybe I could’ve done something.