It doesn’t take Father’s Day for me to have memories of my father. I think about both of my parents daily. Although Daddy has been gone for 25 years now the things we did together are still fresh in my memory. He was an excellent father and the times we spent together are treasures I keep close.
Daddy & Mama on their 50th wedding anniversary.
Most of our family photos were destroyed in a flood but the memories of my father are as vivid to me as the day they happened. I think it is because Daddy went out of his way to spend time with me alone. As the youngest of 6 kids born to a man who already had a grandchild and who would have many more I adored spending time with him.
Daddy seemed like a giant to me. I remember his black hair and blue eyes. He had a deep voice and he’d sing funny songs about sausage makers and “Put your shoes on Lucy. You’re in the city now.” Daddy had a special gift for comforting people. I remember when our next door neighbor died of a heart attack. Daddy sat with his teenage daughter and I could the effect he had on her. She calmed down and was finally able to rest.
When I broke my pelvis cheerleading the pain was nearly unbearable. But Daddy’s soothing voice and gentle touch made it so much better. Through all the injuries of my childhood he was there to make it better.
Even as a child I loved to fish and one day Daddy decided he and I were going to a river more than 30 minutes from home to do a little fishing. The drive down was an adventure for me. I’m sure he wished I wasn’t so fond of talking. Daddy used to say I’d been vaccinated with a phonograph needle!
When we arrived he picked a quiet spot where the river was shaded by trees and the current wasn’t terribly fast. He knew I’d be catching little bluegills and sunfish and the spot was perfect for that. As soon as he baited my hook and I’d thrown it in the river I loudly announced I’d caught a fish. He chuckled and said he didn’t think I had just yet. But he pulled the line out anyway and, lo and behold, there was a tiny sunfish on the hook! His laughter at both the speed with which I’d caught the fish and its size are still clear in my mind.
As I grew into my early teen years we’d get up very early. Maybe that’s why I still rise before the sun. He’d make coffee and we’d sit on the porch waiting for the sunrise. Those are the times, in that pre-dawn quiet that he’d talk about my brother, Thomas. Hearing about my lost brother from Daddy’s perspective was really special.
But those mornings weren’t all serious. Daddy would teach me about birds and why animals behaved the way they did just before the sun was fully up. He taught me to listen for certain birds in the dawn chorus and to watch for opossums and raccoons. He also taught me about flowers. Daddy was an avid gardener.
Some mornings we’d go for an early morning swim. My parents had provided us with larger and larger pools as we grew and eventually they’d put in an in-ground pool. I was a fish and spent all summer swimming. I’d come home from swim team practice and dive right into our pool. But those early mornings swimming with Daddy had a magical quality. The warm water and the not-quite-light sky made me think of tropical islands and mermaids.
We once re-wired the chandelier in the dining room. It was something of a disaster. Light switches were suddenly turning on lights that were nowhere near them. Daddy joked that if we kept at it long enough we could turn on the kitchen faucet by flipping a switch in the basement!
And Daddy was there for me as an adult. He spent hours stripping paint from the beautiful wood trim in my farmhouse. He listened to my kids as they talked endlessly (they got it from me) about school and cub scouts. He bought them their first pony even though I objected.
I lost my father way too early. In 1992, when he passed away, I was only 34. In all the years since I’ve longed to have Daddy here with me. I wanted him to see that everything he taught me about tools, gardening, fishing, and so much more are still with me. In my heart I pray he can see what I’ve accomplished because of him. But more than that I wish he were here so we could sit on the porch in the pre-dawn and talk again. Because those were the times I learned the most about him and are the most cherished memories of my father.
My high school graduation day.
Grandpa and Paul on Paul’s first Christmas Day.
Grandpa teaches Paul how to play Gin Rummy while Pete watches.