I would hear his alarm go off every morning at exactly 4:30am. He would groan, roll over to turn off the blaring culprit, and then reach over for his robe.
In the cold dark mornings, he would kneel down on the floor next to his bed and he would pray.
After talking to God, my daddy would shuffle to the bathroom and I would hear the squeaky faucets protest as he turned on the water for a shower.
At that moment, I would shove my covers and my pillow under my blankets and sneak down the old wooden staircase to take my place on the chilly hardwood floor in the front parlor next to the kitchen. I would hide behind the parlor door, peeking through the open door frame and the wall.
Lying prone, with my face down on the cool slats of wood, I would angle myself sideways, waiting for him to come down the stairs. I knew he would come out of the bathroom smelling like Old Spice after shave and that he would take a quiet peek into my brother’s room, and then he’d peek into mine, and then he would tiptoe to his room to finish getting dressed for work.
He would enter the hallway carrying his old blue plaid Pendleton on one arm, and his socks and shoes in his hands, and he would try real hard to sneak down the stairs without making a sound. But I always knew he was coming because the old wooden steps would creak and moan under the weight of his approaching footsteps.
I would hold my breath as he descended and veered off into the kitchen, flipping on the light. I never wanted him to detect my presence. I just wanted to see him. He worked so many hours.
Peering through the door crack, I would watch him walk over to the old coffee percolator and plug its cord into the wall socket. Then he would take his old Bible from the countertop and spend a little time reading it, at least until the snort-snort-snort of the coffee pot quieted down.
He’d check the time on his gold pocket watch, get up, and fetch himself a cup of coffee while frying an egg in the smallest cast iron skillet on the stove top. Eating alone in the silence, he would use a piece of bread to sop up the egg yolk while sipping his coffee.
Sometimes as he ate, he would grab a pad of paper and a pencil and write something. And then he would fold it up, write my mama’s name on it with a big flourish, and then tuck it into the napkin holder, sticking out, to make sure she’d see it. I had snuck and read one of his writings once; it was a love poem to my mama although it was funny and had made me laugh. I had watched my mama smile as she read it and then she put it in her junk drawer and when we asked she told us kids that it was just a note and not to be nosy.
There were days he would sit in the stillness of the dark mornings and just run his hands through his hair. Later when the hair on his head disappeared, he would run his fingers thoughtfully through his beard, or twist his handle bar mustache.
I always wondered what he was thinking. I always wondered what he was wondering about.
When he would get up from the table and put his plate and coffee cup in the sink, I would wish I was brave enough to run out from behind the parlor door and hug and kiss him goodbye, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t.
And I would watch him heave a great sigh and put on his Pendleton to go out and face the cold damp mornings and I would see that he was surely tired, and that his countenance bore a weariness that spoke of the hard work he left home to do every day.
I would listen to his footsteps and the sound of his truck engine as it choked awake each morning and I waited until he drove out of the driveway and into the street before I lifted myself from the hard cold floor so I could go back to my bed and go to sleep.
And I could hardly wait for the next morning to come, so I could see him again.
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