Today is Father’s Day – like Mother’s Day, a bittersweet holiday for many.
My dad’s name was Fred, my given name Fredine. I don’t think it a coincidence that I was a daddy’s girl. I was his shadow and when my brother Bill came along, the three of us were inseparable. Some of our favorite times were leisurely strolls – for Bill and me, more like tromping – through the tall pine trees near Tulip Creek in Dallas County, Arkansas.
Daddy came from a musically inclined family. When he was in high school, he and my uncle Wilson had a radio show in Borger, Texas, where they would play guitars and sing. When Daddy was older, he was always singing or humming his way through the house. My granddaughter does that now and it makes my heart happy!
My dad loved going to school. By age 55 he had accumulated 435 college credit hours but no degree. Mother told him he could either file a degree plan or just audit courses, that his classroom addiction was much too expensive! He submitted everything to Regents College in New York who awarded him a bachelor’s degree and audited courses until just before he died.
Father’s Day brings back so many memories! I remember standing next to him holding nuts and bolts while he worked on Grandpa’s old truck. He finished up, slammed the hood, and when I asked him about the things still in my hand he said “Engines come with extra parts.”
Daddy was a big football fan and truly loved his Arkansas Razorbacks. He had the red blazer with the emblem on the pocket, every Razorback related desk accessory or knick-knack. We bought our first color TV so Daddy could watch the Hogs play in color. Even now I am brought to tears when I hear the Arkansas fight song.
So many memories!
I can remember a conversation in my mother’s dining room where I was full of facts and making my opinion known. He looked at me in disbelief and asked me how I knew whatever. I replied “Daddy, I majored in journalism. I am a trained investigative reporter!” He shook his head and walked away, muttering “well that’s some fine college money wasted.”
Daddy was an Army officer, often deployed – I can remember being 5 or 6 and whining about him being away and my mother told me he had “the most important job in the world because he protected our country.” Since he was gone so often (more than once a year at a time) Mother was the head of our household and chief disciplinarian. It was cute when he’d come home and think he was in charge.
Being his namesake, a daddy’s girl and looking like him let me get away with a lot of things. I’m sure there were times he told me “no” but only two stand out. I was 16, it was summer, I was heading out for a night with my friends (which in our small town meant hanging out at the Wampus Cat Drive-In). I had on new hot pants, navy blue, Rolling Stones lip logo on the back pocket. Daddy told me to change my shorts, that they were too short. I told him they were the style, all the girls were wearing them and I didn’t need to change. Again, he told me to change my shorts and when I asked him why, he held up his hand and dangled the car keys. I changed. The second time was when I told him I was getting married. He asked “who do you think you’re marrying”? When I told him he said “I guess you’re not!” He was right then, too.
I gave the men in our family Santa boxer shorts as a Christmas Eve gift one year. Daddy continued to wear his year ‘round, said they were comfy. I told him he was going to have a wreck and end up in the ER, then the psych ward because the medical staff would think him crazy for wearing Santa boxers in the summer!
My dad was not the best dad, but by the time our kids came along he had figured it out. There was no better granddad! They adored him and he adored them!
Daddy died October 14, 1992. The last time I talked to him he was humming a tune, cutting a piece of chocolate pie for lunch. I told him my car needed oil – he asked if I needed it now or after work, I opted for after work, told him I loved him, kissed him on the cheek, said I’d see him then. Two hours later my mom called to tell me he’d collapsed and less than four hours later he was gone.
Daddy’s funeral was with full military honors. Even though we lived near Carswell Air Force Base, an Army honor guard drove up from Fort Hood in Killeen, saying they couldn’t let the Air Force bury one of their own. The sound of their footsteps as they carried his casket was haunting, as was the 21-gun salute. Daddy was buried in his dress blues and Santa shorts.
I miss you, Daddy.
Love never dies.