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A bit over 34 years ago, an almost 60-year-old man had a little girl born.
She was hardly something new to him. After all, he'd already been "Daddy" to many, many daughters and even more sons all decades older than this odd new child who lacked much hair and was of no particular beauty at the time.
Oddly, he decided this child, born to his very young new wife, would carry his nickname of "Tiny."
My mother protested. How could she name her first child, her daughter, an adjective unlikely to ever even describe a long-limbed newborn with a bald head far too large?
They bickered back and forth. Finally, My daddy was soothed by a compromise.
In West Virginian, this name became Tah-Nee-uh with the way we speak. But over three decades ago, it suited my Daddy just fine that is was after him. Close enough, he thought.
Names seem to have some weight, some power over our lives because I've spent nary a day since where he has not been on my mind or I haven't been juxtaposed to him in so many ways. The very best of me and the very worst of me, really.
He brought me home with my mother to this little trailer that set behind his store on Route 10 in Ranger, West Virginia. I lived there until I was 5 years old.
It was a hodge-podge upbringing full of local characters coming in to buy sandwiches made in a store without running water,going out having borrowed money from Daddy, buying tires or septic tanks on credit he tracked on small carbon booklets.
Mostly, I remember my mother and I always in this struggle of never having indoor water that worked properly.
There was never a question this old man who grew up with too little food, no formal education, with siblings dying of preventable illness and no father had carved a bit of an empire out in the area, but he wore the same few moth-eaten, threadbare work shirts and work pants purchased time long before even my mother came along until the day he died on June 6th, 2009.
That little trailer is over 50 years old, and it still stands behind Lucas Grocery in Ranger. His shirts still hang inside.
His sign has been taken down, and the trailer caves in more and more each passing year.
A few times since he has been gone, when I have felt very strong and very sad at once, I stop and opened the little door that has never closed properly, to see everything as he left it.
There is this distant and bizarre hope one day when I stop, I will find my Daddy sitting on a hard wooden stool by a cash register from '50's or somehow meandering around the cement and concrete building without heat or air while walking with two canes helping folks find what they were searching for, but of course, that is so silly.
Today marks 7 years since he called to say, "This is your papa," and how I wish to hear him say that one more time.
My boys will never know him or the work that unrolled each day inside of those doors. They will never understand the eccentric parts of me that folks find so odd are directly because of him, the good and the very bad.
They will be the worse for it.
My life is so entangled in that man and his tiny little store, I have ceased to understand how I could ever really grow beyond them both.
"Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been.”
― Margaret Atwood
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