“Dad’s Day,” June 16, 2020

The first man I ever loved never learned to cook. If no one cooked for him, he would eat out or go hungry. We ate out a lot.

I didn’t see him often. Not often enough. But not because he didn’t try.

Sometimes I would cook for him. My specialty was instant coffee. Two heaping spoonfuls in a cup of lukewarm tap water. He’d drink every drop, trying not to gag, insisting it was the best coffee he’d ever had.

My second specialty was mud pies. I’d stand barefoot in the creek on the farm where he lived with his mother, scooping mud into a plastic cup. He’d sit on the creek bank, licking his lips like a dog begging for a bone. I’d stir the mud in the cup, adding creek water, just so.

“Here,” I’d say, presenting it like a turkey on a platter at Thanksgiving. Then I’d watch him pretend to wolf it down, rolling his eyes with pleasure, saying, “Mmm, mmm! You sure do know the way to a man’s heart!”

I wish you could’ve seen him.

Sometimes he made me laugh so hard I’d fall into the creek and he’d have to fish me out.

My dad wasn’t perfect. My mother would certainly agree with that and gladly elaborate.

But I knew things about him that she didn’t know. Or maybe he was just better somehow at being a father than a husband.

After they divorced, when I was 2, she stopped being his wife. But I would always be his daughter, as I am even now, almost 30 years since he died.

Here, in no order, are some things I know about my dad:

_ He grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and never wanted to live anywhere else. But he took me to see the ocean once. We spent a week walking the beach and fishing off a pier. We didn’t catch much, of course, because I liked to talk more than fish. But he didn’t seem to mind.

_ He joined the Army in WWII and fought the Nazis, he said, “back to their front porch.” He was shot crossing the Rhine, spent months recovering, and came home to his mountains to take a job in a textile mill, changing shifts every week.

_ When he wasn’t at the mill, he was milking cows or plowing fields or fishing or hunting or looking for ways to spend time with my older sister and me.

_ He respected my mother. He never once spoke ill of her in my presence. And he never failed to send her monthly child support, or anything else we might need.

_ He bought a suit and a tie and wore them three times: To see me graduate from high school and college, and to escort me down the aisle at my wedding.

_ He loved his six grandkids, three from my sister and three from me. He was like a father to my sister’s kids who lived near him, and he flew to California a few times to get to know mine.

_ In his 50s, he suffered a stroke and spent seven years in a VA hospital. When he was released — with a bad limp, slurred speech and a paralyzed arm — he swore he’d never go back.

The last time I visited him at his apartment, I looked inside his fridge and laughed.

“Daddy,” I said, “when are you ever going to learn to cook?”

He grinned, and his eyes were still as blue as they are in all my memories.

“Never,” he said.

A few months later, he was gone. The note he left to explain why he took his life said he was sure he had cancer and was not about to go back in a hospital.

There is so much I’ll never know about my dad — things I never asked him, and will always wish that I had.

Why do we wait until it’s too late to say what we long to say and ask what we long to know?

On Father’s Day, and other days, I remember especially two things about him: He was a good man. And he loved me.

Becoming a father is often too easy. To be a great dad takes a good man and a lot of love.

To all the great dads, now or in memories, happy Father’s Day!

Comments

  1. Nancy Owens says:

    Thank you for the memories of your father. My Daddy died in Dec 1990 at 66. I am now older than both Mama and Daddy were when the cigarettes killed them. I was an only child and never doubted that I was loved. Daddy was an infantry veteran of WW2, got his million dollar wound on Christmas Eve 1944. He drank too much but at least in my presence he was never a mean drunk.
    Some of my best memories of him are how he played games with me: checkers, card games, jigsaw puzzles. And he paid for me to go to college and live in the dorm! THANK YOU DADDY.

  2. Vicki White says:

    This was just an awesome tribute to your Dad and it made me laugh and cry as I miss my own Father today who lived to 94 and has been gone two years now. Thank you for sharing your stories. Take care, Vicki

  3. Anne Davis says:

    Thank you, dear Sharon. There’s nothing like being the daughter of a good dad. Mine will be gone 19 years Fathers’ Day. Yesterday would have been his 104th birthday. Not many days go by that I don’t think of him. Again, your gift of writing evokes fond memories. Hope you all are well. We will meet again one day. xoxo

  4. Kate Sciacca says:

    Well if that wasn’t the sweetest story…thank you 🙂. I’m the opposite…. know almost everything about my dad (including the fact that he would crawl through the storm drains at Santa Anita racetrack to save the two buck entry fee… and put those two bucks on the first race) and very little about my mama (don’t even know where she went to high school) – so true that we wished we knew more and asked more questions when they were with us. Seems like my kids ARE asking more questions, I’m glad they are.

    Mailed off the Father’s Day cards to the boys and son-in-law yesterday- isn’t it a blessing to see our boys being great dads? Their dads did well (and we did ok, yes????).

  5. Katie says:

    Beautiful memories and tribute to your father. I, too, had an imperfect dad, but choose to remember the good times. None are perfect, but probably doing/did as best as they can/could have. Love them anyway. Love covers a multitude of sins. Thank God!

  6. Betty McNall says:

    Yes more time was needed! My Dad taught be many things! I was his 1st and only for 7 years! He adored my Husband as he had 3 girls!!!! He died at 54 yrs, way to soon! I have all good memories as I don’t remember if there were and bad ones! Heaven got a good man! I will be visiting his grave along with many other family members, on the 20th as we are getting together for cousin reunion!

  7. Dick Daniel says:

    Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. But, mostly heartwarming.

  8. Patti Peters says:

    Sharon your words mean much to me, many shared memories of my Dad. We take advantage of them, never thinking they will be gone, wishing for just a little more time.

    • Carolyn Cordes Jones says:

      I was fortunate to have my dad to the age of 89! I was born with a twin, (I’m the oldest y-by 15 min.!) I was always my Daddy’s girl and Marilyn was a “Mimi’s” girl!!! I followed him around when he went to farming full time, when I was about 12! I have many beautiful memories!!! He and my mother had almost 70 years of marriage, as did my twin! I cherish all my memories of my Dad!!! Your article moved me to tears (not for the first time)! Thank you!

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