It’s a rainy, reflective Saturday afternoon here in my dad’s big old house and I can’t help but think of the many rainy Saturday afternoons my dad probably sat here, watching golf or westerns or gospel videos on his big tv. It’s a safe bet that he’d call me or the girls at least once (or maybe 5?) times to just say, “Hey bayyybeee” in that deep southern baritone voice of his. I’d guess these would be the rare days when one of the three of us hadn’t asked him to do something for us, take us somewhere or buy us some desperately wanted thing we “direly needed”.
I feel sad when I think of how many of those times I wasn’t really doing anything important, but I’d hurry off the phone after a few minutes of chit chat. I really don’t believe my dad knew lonely though. He stayed so busy golfing and taking care of us til the very last end that he never could have felt unwanted or very much alone. We needed him too much. I believe he felt sad when mother left him for her boyfriend. I’d imagine he might have felt lonely then, but I’d guess it was more sad and heartbroken than actual loneliness.
The last few months of his life though, in hindsight it was almost as though he knew it was almost time to go. He wasn’t sick or anything, he just started seeming more eager for company. And he suddenly started being irrationally worried about me. Almost as though he feared I might get in trouble somehow and need him and he might not be able to be there this time…
My dad was not a perfect man by any means. There were a few times in my life he really disappointed me. We only saw him once a month or so growing up, but often he’d get a babysitter and go on a date… And I’d be bummed because I wanted every second possible with him. Sometimes my dad would drink too much, usually while playing old country music songs and reminiscing about mother. This made me uncomfortable because mother talked so horribly about him that it broke my heart to see how much pain he was in about their divorce. In hindsight, I realize my mother was leading him on and sleeping with him long after she left him to marry my step-dad, so no wonder he was so torn apart for so long about it.
Once, he took us to one of his clubs where he socialized and drank frequently and got rip-roaring drunk. He got so very drunk that around 10 pm when we got in his car, he just sat there with his head slumped over the steering wheel – not saying anything. I was scared. I’d seen my daddy a bit drunk a few times but never slumped over his steering wheel in total silence! After awhile, I felt so scared I said, Daddy are you okay? He didn’t reply. Daddy? Daddy??!? Finally he mumbled, “go back in there and get Bob for me, ok?”
Now, I was really scared! I ran as fast as I could back inside to get his best friend and drinking buddy, Bob Taylor. Bob was also very drunk and started teasing me, laughing “What’s wrong? Your dad too drunk to drive y’all home?”
I didn’t think it was very funny and I didn’t think that was very nice to say.
But Bob’s girlfriend got us home and daddy apologized the next day. You couldn’t have given me a million dollars to tell mother that had happened! I would have bit my own tongue off before I told her anything she could possibly exaggerate and run around putting my dad down about.
No, my dad said he was sorry and I never thought of it again. It never happened again either. Unlike mother, my dad wasn’t ever afraid to apologize or admit when he was wrong.
My dad was an imperfectly perfect human being. He never made me feel bad when I made a mistake. instead, he made me feel loved by forgiving me and never bringing it up again. He didn’t throw things in my face repeatedly or act as though he was beyond reproach because he was my dad. He was human. He was wonderful. He was patient (usually!). He was generous, kind, loving, and forgiving.
My dad never once made me feel like he didn’t have the time for me…not even when I was being ridiculous or when I was depressed and talking nonsense. He never shamed me or made me feel ashamed to be me.
Toward the end though, I treated him like I didn’t have the time. And look at me now, with not a single person in the world who has the time for me. All those important friends I had…catering to my children…too worried about this or too busy with that….
Where’s all that stuff now?What did those “important” things add up to be? Nothing. And certainly nothing of any importance compared to precious time with my dad. I’d give anything for 5 more minutes to just hear his voice, to sit and drink a beer with him, watching tv and chatting about this or that…
I suppose I deserve to know what it feels like to be treated by the world as though I don’t exist at all or as though everyone’s just too busy for me. I did treat my dad like that sometimes and he, of anyone in my entire life, did not deserve that.
My dad was most incredibly amazing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to accept or reconcile that he’s gone.