Saturday, February 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, Daddy

If my father were alive, his age would be 87 today. He died in 1990 at the age of 71 when my age was 43. Except for my wife and children, I spent more time with him than any other one person. He was my lifelong best friend and it feels good for me to recall memories of him.

My daddy had strong character. He worked hard and devoted his life to family. He was intelligent without much formal education. If he had gone to school like many returning WWII vets, he would have succeeded beyond everyone's dreams. If you assess how he contributed to family, he succeeded by any standard measure. He loved this country and believed everyone could succeed if they tried and followed the rules. He despised some decisions coming from the U. S. Supreme Court, but he obeyed all laws. He disliked Labor Unions, OPEC, and Yasir Arafat. He loved the military and law enforcement authority. He disliked alcoholic beverages of any kind, illegal drugs, and hippy young people, but he liked cigarettes. He played and loved baseball, but disliked superior-minded, show-off sports stars. I don't know what he would think of cyberspace, Internet, and blogs, but I know he wouldn't approve of vineyards, wineries, and Lottery.

He and I spent lots of time working on projects, visiting each other, talking on the telephone, and just keeping in touch. I didn't consider him completely open minded to ideas and I was careful when discussing some of my thoughts. Sometimes I didn't discuss them at all. Just like you and me, he had shortcomings, but I learned a lot from him.

When he was living his final days, I had the opportunity to say to him my final departing words. As he lay in bed going in and out of consciousness, I mustered these words:

"Daddy, do you remember when I was a boy and you often pitched baseball to me in our front yard in Dozier? (long pause) Do you remember taking me to M. Long's store and buying ice cream or soda for me? (long pause) Do you remember writing a letter to me almost every day for a year while I was in Vietnam? (long pause) Do you remember us working together so many times to gather firewood and till our gardens? (long pause) Do you remember you and me just hanging out to visit and talk? (long pause) Daddy, thank you for all you did for me."

As I said those words, he would squeeze my hand or nod his head slightly. I could have and should have said much more, but I just couldn't pull it together.

Have you thought about the final departing words you will utter to a loved one? If you haven't, you should. After you contemplate your words, then think about the present. You may begin to see different priorities emerge from within and human relationships become stronger.

As I prepare to click on the "publish" icon to send this message into Cyberspace, I say again, Daddy, thank you for all you did for me.

Have a good day!


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