Five Years

My daddy could fix anything, but he still can’t fix the my broken heart when he left me five years ago today. I wouldn’t say we were close, but then again, I wouldn’t say Daddy was close to anyone. His early life was filled with rejection, and it would’ve made some people cruel. It made my daddy quiet, introspective, often critical, but more than being critical of others, he was deeply critical of himself. He was not wanted, the product of a rape. The man whom he called daddy never wanted him, his mother a mere child herself. He had to work while his half siblings played. His childhood was nothing compared to the one he gave me. You could tell he wasn’t raised in a loving home because he never hugged or said I love you. Momma was the one who did all that and she would say You know your daddy loves you. And we did know.

I don’t think I knew how much until I began writing this blog talking about all the ways Daddy showed his love. Five years now my precious daddy has been gone. I look up at the Flag that was draped on his casket. I see his pictures throughout my house, beautiful memories all. I look at my beautiful home realizing that I only have what I have because of the hard work of my daddy. I can’t stop crying because I just love him so much I can’t contain it. I want to do something to make him proud of me, to make his sacrifices worthy. I want to go back in time and rescue him from his family. I just want to be with my daddy.

I want to lie in his arms as a child again. Kiss his bald head. Smell his Old Spice and Daddy smell. Watch him tinker on something out in the out building. Drive him somewhere. Have him pick me up from somewhere. Talk to him in the living room. Watch a western with him. Reassure him that Momma was going to be okay. Hold his hand. Dance with him. Watch him play with my kids. Watch him mow the yard. Yell at me for breaking a contact lens. Listen to my boss tell him some bullshit story that my daddy knew was bullshit. Watch him play pool with Brother. Watch him eat with his mouth open. Listen to him play guitar. Run into my bedroom in his underwear when I saw a mouse. Swim with me in a pool when I was little. Go on a ride with me at the park. Clean up my mess when momma got mad. Call me the baby. Always.

I think there’d be something wrong with me if I didn’t miss all the wonderful things about my daddy. Not everyone gets a good daddy. He wasn’t perfect & I wish we’d talked more but I learned just in time to love him as he was. Last week I dreamed he and I were hugging and it was so good. He really relaxed into the hug, more so even than he did before he died.

There have been many, many times that I have felt my daddy since he passed. I think he was worried about me. I know that’s not practical theology but it’s what I feel. Relationships aren’t perfect, and I can’t say ours was. If I could see him again, he wouldn’t talk any more than he ever did about his feelings or his pain, his sorrow or burdens. But he had them.

I feel so much closer to my daddy since I stopped trying to make him be a stereotypical dad and just loved him for who he was and then after his death, found all the ways he showed and showed his love to me.

Before the Baby

I’ve been remiss in my blogs, mainly because I think no one ever reads them, but I’m dropping that defeatist attitude right now. I write for me. What I write might make it on a blog or on a piece of paper, but I make no more apologies for my writing.

Today I’m thinking about people who were essential to the whole Baby equation. You can’t have a true Baby if there aren’t others to fill the remaining spots. Legend tells us the oldest is the perfect, bossy one and the middle child is the neglected one when there are three. Legend would be wrong in our case, probably because they were just two siblings for the majority of their growing up years and then Mom had to get pregnant with little old me.

The information I give you is what I have been told and what I have always felt. My sister and brother adored me. Sibling rivalry? Nope. They fought each other on who got to hold me but jealous of me? Not that I’ve heard. They were sixteen and thirteen, and knowing our mother, ready for her to turn her loving control (ahem) on someone else. Thanks for that, guys.

My sister, the eldest, was a fairy princess to me. So beautiful and I wanted to be just like her. She would let me ride to church with her in her T-top Mustang and stop at the 7-11 and get candy for me. She worked at the dentist office and it smelled so good. They had a Little Golden Book about God there that I loved. I was never scared to go to the dentist because Sissy was there. She never got too mad at me when I embarrassed her. At the time I didn’t understand what was so bad about asking Sissy what her tampons were in church or showing her date this training bra my friend Angie had talked her mother into getting her first grade self. Those of you who know my Sissy may not know how shy she really is. This was more so when I was little. She taught me how to dance and I listened to her music. 70s Pop. Dancing Queen. Shake Your Groove Thing. It was just magical until she left me. To get married. 🙁

My Bubba and I didn’t do as much together, but he snuggled as much as Sissy. Bubba is still a World Class Snuggler. He had a motorcycle even then that he would let me sit on, and that was quite a distinction. Bubba introduced me to good old Southern Rock – Lynrd Skynrd, Three Dog Night. As you can see I was musically covered on both sides, plus my mother liked musicals, Elvis, and gospel and Daddy liked bluegrass and country. No wonder my taste is so eclectic now. Bubba didn’t abandon me as soon as Sissy and when he did, he brought a great new playmate (ha ha… She played differently with him.) His wife Kay taught me how to play cards, shuffle cards, cook a little, and she had two cats. She also had a typewriter. My inner writer was stirring.

Once I forgave my brother in law for stealing Sissy, he turned out to be okay too. He had a sweet family, especially his mom, who I loved.

As you can tell, I was a terribly spoiled girl. I had two parents who loved me, and then I had two siblings who came in behind my parents, providing extra care, love, and support. They went outside on Christmas Eve and jingled bells outside my window so I would really believe in Santa. My sister brought her friends home from high school to show off how I could read the newspaper even though I wasn’t in school. My brother and his wife surprised me one day with an all-day trip to Opryland. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. My siblings are the greatest gift my parents left me.

My Sissy & Bubba 2013

Sacrifice

I think about my Daddy so much now, more than I did when he was alive, which is just horribly sad. One of the realizations I’ve come to in all my soul searching is that he sacrificed quite a bit for me. He was laid off from TVA  in the early 80s. He had to find work in Memphis and northern Alabama. He was even on a job in Newburgh, Indiana when he had his near-fatal fall that ended his working career. He could have     boxed up me and momma and moved us to these locations each time work became available. I see students transfer in all the time. Yet Daddy didn’t do that. He kept me with my friends, Momma with her home and her grand babies, and gave himself long work weeks away from home. He bought a travel trailer that he would park and live in during the week. Daddy didn’t have a lot of friends, and he really just liked being around us. This was a big sacrifice for him. He was a quiet person, so the quiet might not have bothered him, but I know he missed us.

One definition of sacrifice is “The act of surrendering as an offering to God.” In this day and age when parenting is a by-product of unprotected and thoughtless sex, my father’s example is even more poignant. I don’t think my Daddy would ever have chosen to be a father on his own. We all were the decision of Momma, and he went along with her. Being the oldest in his family, he often felt that he had raised a family before he ever left home. The fact that fatherhood wasn’t his initial choice makes the job that he chose to do as a father even more remarkable. He may have been dragged kicking and screaming (this would be figuratively because I can’t imagine this literally) into fatherhood, but once he became a father, he endeavored to do his best. Was he perfect? By no means. He was not warm. He was not cuddly. What he was was stable. Consistent. Present. Loyal. Good. Hard-Working. Sacrificial. I wish I’d seen this in him before he died so I could thank him. Parenthood is a million little sacrifices really, if you do it right, I think. I wonder if there are any more I’m missing.

In a Few Words

If you asked me to put into a few words why my daddy was so special, this is what I would say:

My daddy could fix anything. From my tears to a dangerous staircase, he was the go-to guy. Once we had a visiting preacher who condemned Christian contemporary music just as I had sung a Christian contemporary song for my church. For whatever reason, Momma was not with us that Sunday, or maybe she didn’t have the right words. I don’t remember. What I do remember is my sweet daddy, who never said anything one way of the other about much of anything, said: “If he’d have listened to your song, he’d have got something out of it.” That was all I needed to dry my tears.

When my husband I got married, he was not saved. I began to worry about this after church one day before the wedding.  Usually I drove myself to church, but on this occasion, I was in the backseat of my parents’ car. We must have had a sermon over being “unequally yoked.” My daddy said that Ralph was going to church with me and that was what mattered. Six months after our wedding, Ralph was saved and baptized.

Momma always said never to pay any attention to Daddy any time he spoke harshly, but the truth is I especially paid attention to Daddy, so much that these instances are seared into my brain. Daddy could fix anything. I mention these two instances because they show Daddy’s love for me and his love for Christ. Daddy wasn’t perfect by any means, but he knew enough to know that he was a sinner who needed saving. His favorite Scripture was Psalm 91. Daddy knew that Christians sadly hurt other Christians, and we just have to shake it off and keep going, love each other with the grace of God, and go to the Father for our Hiding Place. He knew that life works on God’s timeline, not ours, to wait on the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

My Daddy could fix anything, all right. I think he learned it from his Abba, Father God.

Shadows

I don’t cry every day anymore, and I don’t even sit and wish my parents were alive. I know their health was failing, they’re in a better place, and all of the stuff that people say at first to make you feel better but really doesn’t help at all. I know I’m a stronger person for their passing. I know that my love for them is deeper than I imagined as was theirs for me. I’ve discovered a lot about my parents in the years since they left. 

What surprises me the most are the shadows. I’ll be going about my day & there’s my momma. Yesterday she was in the conversation I had with the lady who waited on me at the candy store in Gatlinburg. The lady was older, reminded me of momma somehow. Her hair perhaps. Friendly. 

I just miss talking to older women.  Maybe I should put out an ad: Fortysomething woman looking for mother figure to mentor and guide. Christian required, must be a good cook & a good listener. Willing to trade advice for errands, company, paperwork, and organizational help.  Someone who will laugh at me like my momma…but does anybody think you’re as funny as your mom?

I also see older men who remind me of Daddy. I catch my breath. But then I realize it’s not my older man. Just like yesterday when I left that lady behind, I missed my momma like I hadn’t in a while.  

Shadows of the people I used to have now only in my heart. 

Pushing Away

When my mother-in-law died, the chaplain gave us a booklet about the stages of dying. My previous experiences with my father-in-law and his mother had not prepared me for the triad of death that nearly destroyed me. Their deaths had essentially already happened by the time I got to them. Granny White had been in a coma and slipped peacefully away while Bobby never regained consciousness. Patricia’s death, as described by this booklet, actually started a few months before, and I had seen it coming without knowing. 

I mention this now in context to my daddy only to illustrate an event of which I was not aware. Those facing death know it and begin pushing away from loved ones, separating themselves. 

The Monday before Patricia died, I visited her in the hospital. In the years I had been in her life, she had been in the hospital many times, but she was standoffish to me. I played her song “Simply the Best.” I got her one of those cards that play music one time and that was the song; she loved it. That night, however, she didn’t care about our previous jokes and affection. I left feeling hurt, wondering what I had done to make her distant with me.  

She knew. 

Daddy knew too. 

I wanted to sing to him and he shushed me. The lines were from “I’ll Always Be Your Baby,” a perfect song for us. It probably wasn’t written when I got married. I even started the second verse, which is clearly about the father. He shushed me. 

I’d like to think I had that experience with Patricia & then read that in the booklet so I would understand the reason why people who are dying pull away. I’d like to tell you it made my daddy doing it easier, but it still hurt…maybe not as much as it would have otherwise, though. 

Some people are scared to die, but I’m not. I’m scared to live. I’m scared I’m not getting out of my life all God has for me. Am I loving enough? Am I giving enough? The parable of the talents haunts me. Am I living too safe, like the guy in the parable, and by doing so, displeasing God? I know God is not pushing away from me but sometimes it feels like that same sensation: trying to offer something to someone I love and it not being accepted. 

My Silent Strength

I started this blog to share stories about my daddy, and I realize now that as was the case in life, my momma hijacked the blog. My daddy was a quiet man. He never interrupted anyone. He didn’t like to be the center of attention. A career as a pastor had been dismissed because of his dislike of public speaking. He was an introvert, introspective, and reflective. Not that he shared any of this with us. He was a fortress. Once in a while his opinion would burst forth about a given subject, but by and large, we knew not of his deepest thoughts and dreams. 

The most I can tell you for sure about my daddy is that he worked oh so hard. When it was the weekend, instead of taking it easy, daddy still worked making our home nicer. Idleness did not sit well with daddy. When he had his accident and could no longer work, he looked more than a little lost. He had to invent things to occupy him. He made pictures, even tried to learn the guitar. Once he played a melody and I made it fit “Free Falling” by Tom Petty. 

It’s easy to overlook those people who are quiet. They don’t scream and yell, pestering you for their attention. They are content to sit back and wait their turn. Sometimes I think they must hate those of us who are so loud. Maybe they think we’re good entertainment. I do know I wish I had more of my daddy’s ability to be still and silent.