“Dad? Would you comb out my hair?” His daughter was drying her hair with a bath towel. She was dressed in simple blue pajamas, but her feet were covered in neon striped slipper socks. At 10 years old, she was still comfortable being different. He said a small prayer that she would be strong enough to stay that way in the years to come.
“Sure,” he replied as he set down his Sports Illustrated. He went to the master bath to grab a comb and detangle spray. When he came back his daughter was sitting at the kitchen island.
“I turned on the radio, is that OK?”
“That’s fine,” he said.
She sat back against the chair. He started to run the comb through her hair, fascinated at how the water would collect on the bridge of the comb. The teeth of the comb making solid lines in her light brown hair. They sat there quietly. Not needing to fill the air with useless chatter.
He moved the comb to capture the hair on right side of her head. He moved the comb above her ear, then down to her neck. The comb snag, bringing her head back quickly.
“No problem, Dad.”
He gritted his teeth as the comb caught another knot.
She laughed a little, “No problem.”
He continued, falling into a rhythm of clean runs with an occasional knot that he would work through by placing his hand on her skull above the knot to minimize the pull on the roots of the hair. Just like his wife had taught him.
After a few songs he thought he was done, but he didn’t quite want the moment to end, so he ran the comb through her hair a few more times. He moved the comb to catch a few stray hairs by her left ear. As he ran the comb down toward her neck he caught a small knot. His daughter’s head snapped back.
“Sorry,” he said softly.
She didn’t answer. He thought he heard a small sob.
“Sorry, little one. Didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She raised her hand to say OK. He felt something change in the room. He didn’t know what it was, or what to say. He paused for a few seconds fighting the temptation to see if she was crying. Instead he went back to combing her hair. It was drying out and he knew he would have to stop soon or her hair would become frizzed from static electricity.
He felt he should say something, “I’ll work on getting the knots better.”
He defiantly her sob this time. “I miss her, dad.”
He had to set his jaw quickly to fight the pain in his chest as the cracks in his heart opened. Images and sounds flashed in his mind. The red and blue lights. The blue civic bent at an incredible angle. The delivery truck sitting on the curb as if it was waiting for the drive thru of Burger King to move. Every time his wife, her mother’s face tried to surface the pain in his heart would grey it out.
“I miss her, too,” he said through his emotions.
He placed his hand on her head to minimize the pain and started to workout the knot.