Jocelyn squealed with delight as I flipped her over my knees and onto my chest. My Dad used to play with me this way, lying down on his back with his knees bent and turning his body into a mini roller-coaster. I let out a grunt that was only a little bit for effect as she landed square on my chest. She’d tackled me on my way in from work, my laptop bag lay sprawled on the sofa next to us.
It was a hot summer afternoon and I’d unbuttoned the top two buttons of my shirt the first chance I could get, the hair on my chest poking through like an ascot. My wife says I’m not hairy, I’m furry, which delights my daughter to no end. As she sits up from her landing she digs her fingers into my fur and tugs. I yelp pathetically which prompts laughter, and my wife to poke her grinning face around the corner. She has done the same thing to me countless times, and with the same amount of glee.
Jocelyn’s laughter stops for a moment as her fingers trace the spot at the top of my chest where there is no fur. I’ve felt her fingers on that spot countless times before, even when she was a baby. I used to think about how the patch of skin that is my scar felt to the new pink skin of my baby girl. This time she isn’t just touching the spot, but tracing it, moving her fingers the three inches along the base of my neck. The scar twitches slightly and I have to resist the urge to scratch it. Even after four years it still itches.
“What is that, daddy?”
I’ve known this question would come, and even after all these years I am at a loss for an answer. My wife puts down the meal she has been preparing and walks into the breakfast nook. I don’t know how to tell my daughter about cancer, how the doctors had to remove my thyroid because of what was growing inside it. I don’t know how to tell her about the pill I take every morning to keep me alive or the checkups every six months to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back.
Her daddy is supposed to be around forever. Who am I to change that?
Before I can say anything Jocelyn says, “I think it looks like a smile.”
I laugh and sit up, folding my daughter into my chest. “You’re right. When Mommy first told me you were coming your daddy was so happy that one smile just wasn’t enough. I’m always smiling, because I’m so happy you’re my little girl.”
I looked over at my wife who I could just catch brushing away a tear and I smiled at her. My daughter hugged me back for a moment then pushed away.
“I want to go again!” She cried.
I tussled her red hair and lifted her back on the other side of my knees, then leaned back and flipped her onto my chest.