“Remembering My Dad,” June 6, 2017

My dad left this world long ago, too soon, but my memories of him shine clear and bright and true. I think of him often, especially on Father’s Day.

I picture him fishing. Smokin’ and jokin.’ Telling stories. Making me laugh. In all those memories, his laugh is the same old chuckle. His eyes are still as blue as the lakes he loved to fish. And the thought of him still lights me up like the little girl who lay awake at night listening for him to come home from second shift at the mill.

When I was a child, I felt sure the sun rose and set in my daddy’s eyes. My mother did not share that feeling. Maybe she did the night they ran off to get married. She was 15, he was 25. They divorced when I was 2.

I lived with my mother, but often spent weekends and holidays with my dad on his parents’ farm in the mountains of North Carolina. Most days, we were 40 miles apart. And yet he remained an everpresent and reassuring light in my life.

That is love. You don’t need to be together to feel it, to know it is true. Love doesn’t end when loved ones are apart. It stays with one and follows the other over space and time and even over death, never letting go.

My dad wasn’t perfect. Neither am I. If you think you are, you might want to think again. Dad was stubborn. Hard-headed. Opinionated. And after years of changing shifts at the mill each week (first, second, graveyard) he had a tendency to fall asleep at inconvenient times _ in church or in conversations or occasionally at the wheel.

He never wrecked. Not with me. But he came close. I’d yell, “Daddy! You’re gonna kill us and Mama will be mad!”

Then he’d quit snoring and start singing, “Hey, Good-Lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” like he wasn’t really asleep.

He taught me how to ride a horse, milk a cow, drive a car and speak my own mind. He tried to teach me to fish, but soon saw that it was hopeless.

He’d give me a dollar and say, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

He never forgot my birthday.

And he sent me notes in a secret code: “Hope 2 c u b4 __!” (“Hope to see you before long!”)

I remember a scar on his back from a Nazi bullet in WWII.

“Mama said she told you not to go. Why did you enlist?”

He gave me a long look. “I loved your mama,” he said. “But I loved my country, too.”

My mother was often the talk of her mother and eight sisters, but my dad never spoke ill of her. I loved him a lot for that.

He bought one suit and wore it three times: To my graduations from high school and college; and to walk me down the aisle.

He flew to California for my wedding; for the birth of my first child; and finally _ with a bad limp, slurred speech and a paralyzed arm _ he came to play with my children after he was released from the VA Hospital, where he’d spent seven years recovering from a stroke.

The last time I saw him was on his porch in North Carolina. We had a good visit. He seemed happy. I snapped his photo, fought back tears, said “I love you, Dad,” and drove away.

In the next few years, we’d talk on the phone each week mostly about my kids. He never told me he was ill. That’s what he wrote in the note he left the night he took his life. He feared he had cancer, but wasn’t up for a fight. He’d had his fill of hospitals.

That’s a memory I’d rather not recall. But we don’t choose our memories. They choose us.

My dad’s final moment is a hard one to picture. But it’s only one piece of a beautiful puzzle.

On Father’s Day, and every day, I remember him. He loved fishing. Smokin’ and jokin’. Telling stories. Making me laugh. He loved my mother. He loved his country. He loved my children. He loved me.

And he always will.

He was my father. I am his daughter. And some fine day, I “hope 2 c him again b4 __.”

Comments

  1. Beautiful as always, dear friend.
    I loved the line “We don’t choose our memories. They choose us.”
    Blessings,
    Bruce

  2. John T. Beam says:

    I read your articles off and on. I have seen you struggle with your articles at different times. A friend of mine told me that when you write about things you care about and you write from your heart you will get it right. On this article you hit a “Home Run.”

  3. Russell Roberg says:

    Sharon; you write about what is important for the to the soul. I so much enjoy reading what you have to say, keep saying those words!

  4. Sunshine says:

    This is such a beautiful tribute to your father. My father passed away 11 years ago and I write a lot of pieces about our forever bond. My family is traveling to my mother’s church today for a memorial service in his honor. It should prove to be a beautiful morning filled with love and prayers. Memory Eternal to all of our lost fathers.

  5. natalie prenatt says:

    Thank you for sharing, Sharon. I lost my beloved daddy just this past February. I’m not looking forward to my first Father’s Day without him. But I will survive, as will my children, who miss him just as much as I. Since he left, every day is a new challenge, filled with the bittersweet. There’s an empty place in my heart that no one else can fill, but it is now filled with tender memories of him that through my tears, I will always cherish .

  6. Clara McMichael says:

    This one really hit a note for me even though I lost my Dad when I was 4 years old and he was 28 due to a car accident…thank God you remember the best moments and make it easier for the rest of us to remember the best moments too when we go back in time. I remember him on the upcoming Father’s day. His love of country music, cars, and kids…and his parents and my Mom. God has kept him fresh on my mind after all these years.

  7. Kate Sciacca says:

    We bought a home in Northern CA after dad had his stroke – big enough for us and my parents… they lived with us for several years, dad dying in ’94 and mom in ’96…. I always feel a twinge of guilt thinking of the night before dad died. Ever the lawyer and clear speaker (even after the stroke) he said “Katie, I’m quite sure I need medical attention!” Ugh, Kaiser ER on a Monday night… “are you sure dad?” “Yes! I need to go!” He didn’t seem ill, but off we went…. sitting with all the others who needed medical attention. Then dad began to complain that he was “missing the first night of Monday Night Football”…. oh brother! After hours of waiting the ER folks couldn’t find anything but decided to “keep him overnight for observation.” Gave him a kiss, said I would see him in the morning. Got the call next day (actually, they foolishly gave the message to our 13 year old son) that he had died of a massive heart attack. Sometimes we never know “the day or the hour…”

  8. Sharon Starns says:

    The last time I saw my Dad was Dec.28, 2001. I’d been home for a month, helping Mom with Dad’s care and driving him to radiation treatments. I had to head back to my home in Las Vegas because my leave of absence was over. Dad was in bed, and I kissed him goodbye and told him I’d miss him, and he replied..”I’m not dead yet!” His way of diffusing a difficult moment. I’d planned to work for a couple of months, and then come back to help as we neared the end. Eighteen days later, he was gone.

  9. Dolores Daley says:

    Lots of tears for this one. Conditions are different, but you so understand love.

  10. Shashi says:

    Sorry, this was hard to write. But your father was really great ! Thank you
    for sharing. My father did not earn enough. Whatever he earned, he spent raising a family of four.
    My mother saved each rupee. I go to see them after two years. They are old now and do not need anything from rich kids. When I do not take any gift she says ( I know you have lot of money in US) I take 600 Rs. with smile and she gives me 600 blessings!

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