Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved her daddy.
She was small and blonde, with blue eyes and his nose.
She called herself Di-I, so he did, too (and sometimes Bella... and sometimes Aggie).
And when she was very small, she would stand on his feet and he would dance her around the room to Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller records on his stereo. She would hold his big, calloused hands to keep from falling, and look up at him, laughing, as they danced.
When one of her toys broke, she would hand it to him and say, "Daddy fix," and he would say, "Me fix, Di-I. Me fix."
And he always did.
When she said to him at breakfast one morning, "Me no ike eggs, Daddy," he told her that she was eating soufflé and not to worry because, "Di-I ikes soufflé."
And she did.
As the little girl grew, her daddy taught her Very Important Things.
He taught her how to put up a tent. And how to ride a bike. And how to fold the American flag properly. And how, if she got stuck at the top of the monkey bars at the playground, he would always come to rescue her.
When she got a bit older, he taught her how to shake hands "like a man." He taught her how to drive a stick-shift, to check her own oil, and to never let the gas go below a quarter of a tank (though she didn't always [and still doesn't] mind that last one).
He taught her how to tell a story, how to make everyone laugh, how to pour a beer properly, and how to swear with aplomb.
He taught her to stand up for what she believed in and about the importance of having her "ducks in a row."
He taught her about community service and giving back, and how, even if you have little, you still have more than someone else who needs your help. He taught her to always be kind and friendly to service personnel, to tip waiters and waitresses well, and to stack her dishes to make their jobs just a little bit easier.
And when the little girl had grown into a big girl, her daddy, reluctantly so, let her go her own way. He allowed her to choose her own path and think her own thoughts, even when she made big mistakes... even when he didn't agree (and he often didn't agree).
And when she came home with some broken thing, including her heart or her ego, he'd reach for it, saying, "Me fix, Di-I. Me fix."
And he always did.
When he got sick, he taught her that even when there is pain, there is humor, and that the best way to make people feel more comfortable when they are hurting is to make them laugh.
He made her laugh. He made her laugh so much.
And then he died.
And she realized there was one thing he didn't teach her.
He didn't teach her how to live without him.
She has had to learn that all on her own.
She is still learning how.
She will forever be learning how...