My Father Still Holds Me

By Abigal Dotson (in loving memory of John Robert Dotson)
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Father lifting daughterWhen I was younger, my room always got icy cold at night. Before I went to bed, I would crank the heat up something vicious and close all the windows tight; then I would crawl into bed and fall asleep all toasty warm. As far back as I can remember, night after night, my dad would sneak into my room after he was sure I was sleeping and open all the windows. You see, he’s from Minnesota, and he always thought the fresh night air was good for me. Well, sure enough, morning would come and I would wake up shivering, all my windows open to let in the wind. I would jump out from under the covers and hop across the wood floor, bouncing out the back door into the early morning sun and find my dad in the garage, printing. I would yell at him, frustrated that he had done it again, and he would just shrug his shoulders at me and not really say anything at all. Every night was the same. And every morning I woke up cold and angry, although after awhile I guess I came to expect it. After awhile, I guess while I was sleeping I could feel the wind on my cheeks and hear the trees waking up…after awhile, I guess I kind of liked it, even if I didn’t know it.

When I was eighteen and moved away from home to go to school, my dad helped me move in. My first night in my dorm room I was alone. I guess I really knew I had left home when I woke up and window was still closed. It scared me. From that night on, I always kept it open.

When I moved to Washington, the first thing I did in my new apartment was open all the windows. When it snowed the first time, I watched the snow that I had never seen before falling through an open window, shivering and talking excitedly to my father on the phone. When it rained that hard and angry rain that sounds like gunshots pelting down, I heard it through an open window. I wasn’t scared of getting wet or cold or struck by lighting; I was just scared of closing that window. Because when I thought about it, that was how my father always took care of me. That was him telling me how much he loved me. That was his gift to me, his way of saying, “As long as you keep your windows open, Abigail, I will always be able to reach you.” And he did. For years now he has been here and I was always somewhere else, and for years he had found me through that open window. Now I am here and he is somewhere else, but my window stays open. So of all the things my father taught me, that is the one thing I keep telling myself over and over again right now, “Just keep your windows open, Abbe.”

Abigail is Hebrew for “her fathers joy”. I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the cold air under the canopy of redwoods is a constant comfort, and our heating bill is always a little bit higher than the neighbors. I spend most of my time chasing my fourteen month old daughter Ruby Jane, named after her grandpa John.