She got two birthdays and one Christmas with him. She remembers climbing onto his lap so he could read to her. And that's the only memory she has.
Her father is killed. Her father is crushed beneath a forklift. Her mother says under no circumstances is anyone to see inside that coffin. Just, please, show her his hands. Just his hands so she can know he is in there.
It takes two years to convince her sister he is really dead.
She learned he cried every time the National Anthem played. That he said "I love you" to his family every day. That he loved what he did.
She is six. It has been four years since Daddy last crossed their welcome mat. She has learned there are more than 20,000 of them and still, barely anyone remembers them.
When she is eight, she has to understand that seeing Daddy again just isn't an option. That this darkness is called depression.
She has had to learn how to forgive her father for choosing that life. Had to get over her anger and apologize for hating him.
Had to relearn how to love herself. Had to relearn how to forgive herself.
She is 16 when she hears his laugh for the first time. All she has of her father is 27 seconds.
So don't you tell her she is not allowed to cry when she hears it. That she was too young to understand pain. She has had to grow up without a father who, for the longest time, she thought left her. Who, for the longest time, she thought left because he just knew there was going to be something wrong with her. Don't you take this joy from her; it is all she has of him.
She learns that she got her dimples from him.
She didn't even know he had dimples.
She learns that she got her nose from him.
His kind of off, with a slight bump nose.
She learns that she has his smile. And his quiet strength. His thoughtfulness. His laugh. She's 17 when she finds this out.
This didn't come out the way I expected. The soldier is supposed to be welcomed home from war. Supposed to grow old with his wife and love on his children. They were not supposed to bring a coffin into their house. They were not supposed to sit back and learn that his suit would outlive him, his wife, his marriage. Children should bury their parents, but not when they are 36. Not when some of the children don't even know who Daddy is.
They never tell you that it's offensive when people ask about how it happened. Do not cut open these wounds; she's still trying to sew them up from the last time people prodded too close. How it's kind of embarrassing when you don't have a father around for the Daddy-Daughter dances. That you will never have what they have and, in a small way, you almost hate them for not knowing this pain.
They don't tell you that she watches surprise military homecomings, just to cry because she misses him so much.
They never tell you about the love people shower you with. How so many men do not mind acknowledging that they can never replace your father but they will still love you as their own.
They never really tell you about me.
They don't want you to know that I have a name and that my father has a name.
They don't want you to know that my name is Mackenzie and that my father's name is Evander Andrews.
They don't want you to know about the soldier's daughter, but she is standing right in front of you.