An Ode to My Daddy


My Daddy….we never, ever called him Father…died a decade ago, of Parkinson’s Disease….such a terrible disease, and we all hated so much how he lived the last couple of years of his life. He deserved so much better.
But I think he would prefer to be remembered for how he lived rather than his ending….this picture shows how I remember him, smiling with my Mother on a visit here from Alabama, maybe 20 years ago….we had gone over to the Eastern Shore for the day.
He was a cautious man…didn’t take a lot of big chances in life, with his money or his family. Once, on a trip to Japan for his cast iron pipe company(his only trip outside the U.S. except for WWII), he had an afternoon to explore on his own. He took a subway ride to a place where someone assured him he could shop for souveniers. When he came up from the subway, he would go one direction, but only so far and deviate neither left or right. Go back to the subway stop and head off in a different direction, and back again, never taking a chance of getting lost in Tokoyo.
“Like a squirrel never going far from his hole”, he called it.
We undertook a fondly remembered car trip across the country(in the middle of the summer in an un-airconditioned station wagon), to visit relatives in Los Angeles, only after my cousin sent a 3-ring binder he had put together, with each day’s drive mapped out and where we should stop. That was my Daddy.
Adventurous, certainly not. But he was always there. He went to work every day, he brought home his paycheck, such as it was, he went shopping for dresses with us when we were little, and we’d have a “fashion show” before we bought them. He cut the grass, he grew a huge garden with the best tomatoes, corn and green beans ever, veges that spoiled me for supremarket produce forever. He fixed and oiled our bikes and rollar skates, he took us to church every Sunday. He could sweep a floor better than any of us, and made pimiento cheese when we went to the lake. Except for putting in the mayonaise…”I’ll leave that for your Mother. I might put too much.”
He loved puttering around Smith Lake in his little green boat, and fishing….there was a time when the thought of having a boat, seemed like the wildest of dreams. But with a modest inheritance from my grandparents, they bought a lot on Smith Lake, that now holds two residences(the compound, my husband jokingly calls it).
He got us through high school alive and in one piece, that alone deserves mention….and put us through college on a shoestring and a prayer. He was a much favored grandparent who played endlessly with the kids, and would put them to sleep ono a porch swing, swaying gently back and forth….”When I put ’em too sleep, they stay asleep”, he would always boast. Only it was true. He had a magic touch with little ones.
I wish I had known the inner man better…he was often quiet, and I certainly know my Mom much better than I ever knew Daddy. You know what she’s thinking. But he was in the end everything a Daddy should be and so much more. We all miss him, but those gifts he gave us linger on…he made us girls better people and better parents, gifts which I hope I have passed along to my kids, though they can’t sweep a floor to save their lives.

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