Even now, almost 4 years after his death, the thought of my daddy may bring a tear to my eye but is also brings a big smile to my face. Oh my, what a blessing he was in my life!
My dad was born in 1922. Times were hard for his family and became harder when my dad at age 8 lost his father to hemorragic fever. Just a few weeks later his little brother Robert succumbed to the same malady.
My grandmother was left to raise 3 little boys in a day with no public assistance for a widow with dependent children, no financial reserve, and no job. It made her a hard and no nonsense young mother.
When she did find a job she had to walk 4 miles one way to work each day. At one time my grandmother was offered a ride into town everyday on the public school bus. What a relief! However, she and an African American co-worker had walked to work together everyday. Her co-worker was refused passage on the bus so my grandmother chose to walk with her friend everyday instead of riding.
Her energy and emotions were exhausted by her situation and she had little left over for her young boys. She was a strict disciplinarian with no time or inclination for fun. My dad did not remember ever having a birthday cake as a child.
He pushed back. When she forced him to wear long handle underwear to school he would stop by an old abandoned house on the way, strip off the long johns and go to school commando!
He was not allowed a traditional pet so he caught a snake and secreted it away in an old quilt box. Unfortunately, my granny found it one day while cleaning. That incident did not end well. The snake was killed and my dad severely disciplined.
At age 14 after a particularly severe punishment my dad packed a little blue metal suitcase and left home. He lived from farm to farm working for room and board until he lied about his age and joined the army.
At a tender, young age he found himself preparing to go in with the first wave to hit Utah beach on D-day. He survived as hundreds of fellow soldiers died on the beaches around him. For the next 3 years he fought with the infantry in World War II. Often times my daddy told me that God spared him on many occasions. He would always add that if he had been killed then he would have “busted hell wide open”.
Can you imagine what the effects of his childhood, his exposure to the violence of war, and the death and dying he encountered did to this young man? What would you expect with this background? After all don’t we blame many of our dysfunctions on our childhood?
Let me tell you what kind of man that background produced.
My daddy was an average size man, but very strong physically. He had an 8th grade education and a particularly strong will.
What did he do with his life? After an unsuccessful attempt at farming he began to work as a carpenter and painter first for other contractors, then in his own business. He continued in that business until he was in his 80s. He worked 10-12 hours a day in the heat and cold to provide for our family. But, to my daddy it was not just a job. He loved what he did. He was very successful in his profession and if you wanted him to paint your house you had to get on a waiting list. His work was near perfection, but that wasn’t the only reason people would wait for my daddy. It was his spirit, his integrity, and his joy. He always smiled, sang, or whistled as he worked. Some of my son Jonathan’s favorite childhood memories are of working with my daddy.
My daddy was the most giving caring, and loving man I have ever know. He loved and cared for my granny until her death as if is she had been the most loving mother who ever lived.
My dad was a living example of the fact that you always have a choice and that life is what we make of it.
He loved music and played a mean guitar. He had a beautiful voice and I always loved hearing him sing. I can see him today walking down the aisle at church as an usher. All the other men would be serious and silent, not my daddy. He was always singing the offeretory hymn with a smile on his face. I also have a beautiful picture in my mind of him and my son Jonathan sitting together on the balcony at the beach, each with a guitar, playing and singing. Our last trip to the beach with Daddy he left the playing to Jonathan but he still sang along.
He was forever picking up a stranger on the road. Once on Christmas Eve he came upon a little family that was stranded with car trouble. He brought them home with him. His heart was as big as the great outdoors. He ministered to the widows of our church quietly, changing light bulbs, working on a window that was stuck, whatever needed to be done. He never wanted recognition he only wanted to help. He considered being a deacon in our church a great honor and a great ministry.
I loved to hear him pray. My mother says she remembers many mornings when she was still in bed hearing him at the kitchen table praying for his family. He would often leave my mother a love note for when she got up later in the day.
There were times when I disappointed my daddy, but there was never a second of my life when I didn’t know that he loved me unconditionally. There was never a time when I did not know that he was my protector, defender, and shield. He gave me an earthly picture of the unconditional love and forgiveness of my heavenly Father.
When my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia his heart was broken. He loved her so and he wanted so badly to fix it, to do something. Mother said that during the week when we were at the hospital he would go and vacuum our house. Every time we stopped a car long enough he would pick it up and fill it with gas. After she was gone he went every week to edge and cut the grass at her grave site. His love was so very strong even beyond her death.
I miss my daddy. I am so thankful every single day of my life for the blessing he was and the blessing his memory still is to me. Victor Frankl once wrote “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms…to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” My daddy could have been hard and bitter but he chose joy. He could have been cold and uncaring but he chose love and compassion. He could have been selfish and cynical but he chose to be giving and positive. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was one of the greatest blessings of my life.
He loved my mother with a fierce and unfailing love. He told me on many occasions that she had made his life complete. They celebrated their wedding anniversary the year he died. And man, he spoiled her!! For years we thought his dedicated and constant attention to their yard was his love but near the end we found out it was his love for our mother and her love for all things blooming and beautiful that motivated those long hours on his knees in the flower beds. I transplanted some of his Amaryllis bulbs into my yard. When they bloomed this year it was like a smile from heaven.
He had so many stories, I wish I could tell them all. He was a great man, a Godly man, and my hero.
Happy Father’s Day Daddy, I love you!