Thursday, July 21, 2005

My old man

Sorry if this is a bit too personal...

Today is Dad's birthday. He is 55. You know, the old speed limit. Dad got a speeding ticket a few months ago, which is humorous in itself. Today, I thought I would share a few Dad memories.

When I was quite young, probably five or six, Huntsville was the nearest place that you could legally buy alcohol. Now, let me say here that as far as I know, Dad has never even had a sip of alcohol since I have been alive. Anyway, for some reason, Mom and Dad liked to drive around on Saturdays and Sundays. And more than one time, when we would cross the river going towards Huntsville, Dad would tell me he was going to get drunk. He was kidding, but I thought he was serious. I don't know why that terrified me so, but I would cry and say, "No, Daddy!" Gee, I can't wait to play that trick on my kids.

Some of my favorite memories are lying awake at night and asking Dad to tell me stories about when he was growing up. I could picture the stories in my mind as he was telling them. He was, and is, a simple man. Whenever we would get a newer vehicle, Mom would drive it, and Dad would always take the lesser one. He never seemed to care too much for material things. He thought the kind of person you are was more important than what you had, and that is what he tried to teach me. Of course, all the memories aren't good. He had a short temper and yelled a lot when I was younger. He wasn't perfect. Neither was I. But I guess when it comes to looking back on the past, I like to dwell on the good.

His father died before I turned two years old. He never spoke much of it, but I always wondered how he dealt with that. He did not have much family, just two half-brothers who were at least fifteen years his elder. His mother passed away in 1987 (I think). So Mom's family, eleven brothers and sisters, became his family.

On the 4th of July weekend of 1998, I was working on an early Sunday morning when Mom called and said that she was at the hospital. Dad suffered from acid reflux, and he'd had an incident that night which triggered an asthma attack. He couldn't get his breath and a lot of fluid had gotten in his lungs. The ER nurse had told Mom to "call the family in." Those words hit you like a ton of bricks, stop you in your tracks. If you've never gotten that call, there is no way to explain it. I rushed up there to see him. Thankfully, some paramedics happened by, inserted a tube in his throat, and long story short, after a few days in the ICU, Dad was OK. But I remember so many of Mom's brothers and sisters and cousins being at the hospital that day. Dad was never like an in-law to them.

Last night, I was trying to think of one memory, one story, that would sum up Dad. Well, this is the best I could come up with. When my engagement ended, in 1999, I was crushed. As I had spent basically all my free time with my girlfriend/fiancee over the past four years, suddenly I had nothing to do. Worse, I didn't want to do anything. I couldn't eat. It was as close to depression as I have ever been. I could tell Dad was concerned. One evening after work, he took me out to dinner, just me and him. We had never really just gone out to dinner just to be going. Soon, this became a Monday evening ritual. The first couple of times, we talked mostly about what I was going through. But after that, we would just talk about life in general, work, anything and everything. Our Monday night dinners would eventually come to an end, after several months, or a year, or more. I'm not sure. But that always meant a lot to me.

When I was little, anytime I would have to ask Mom and Dad for money or anything, I would always say, "I'm gonna pay you back someday." And I had every intention of doing so. But after 32 years of accumulating debt, it has become clear that I will never be able to repay the balance in full. I decided a few years ago that really the only way to repay my parents is to try to do the same things for my kids, if I'm ever blessed to have kids.

So, anyhow, happy birthday, Dad. And thanks for not getting drunk.

"I'm sure instead of all that attention, all he'd of wanted was a few words mentioned. A simple man, simply laid to rest. As they drove him away in that big Cadillac, with a tear in my eye I had to laugh. Daddy never was the Cadillac kind..."

13 comments:

  1. Oh wow. That is one of the sweetest things I've ever read. You're lucky to have a dad like that. Happy Birthday to your dad. He's pretty lucky to have a son like you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. hey Bone
    You keep on getting better and better.

    And you know Seinfeld better than I do. Couldn't watch it when it was first on; too close to home

    Did somehow see all the famous episodes--and had a pajama party for the last episode. You see--I'm making this about me!

    Happy birthday to your dad; he is lucky to have a son like you--and you're lucky to have parents who are so young. (For parents, that is0

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well done Bone, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, all. I was a little iffy about this post, it felt so personal. But some favorable comments always help. Thanks so much.

    Thanks for linking to me, Pia :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post - almost makes me feel compelled to write of my father. Nah.....

    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post. Your heart on your sleeve is a good thing - around friends and family. Your memories of your dad are wonderful and I hope he has a truly great day and wonderful year.

    Thanks for sharing! :-)

    PS: Those heart stopping phone calls are hard to explain, aren't they? How you described it brought goosebumps on my arms. Odd, isn't it? (unfortunately I know how it feels to personally hear it over the phone)

    PPS: LOL on 32 years worth of payment owed to your parents. I know how that is too. I still feel bad that I owe them for braces, surgery, 3 trips to the hospital, etc. How can you repay that? I love your thoughts - that we pay them back by being good parents to our own kids. I hope that is enough.

    Again, Happy Birthday to your dad and thanks for the smiles, laughs, tears and thought provoking thoughts. Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh man... where do I start?

    I don't think you've ever written such a post that is open to so much comment from me. I mean, after all, you mentioned your engagement in which I would have to ask, "Which one?" LOL

    Nonetheless, it's odd that I remember almost all of these times you talk about. I believe I was working the morning you had to leave and go to the hospital. A lot of prayers were said that morning since a long list of preachers were doing their program.

    And it's neat that my first memory of your dad was while in high school. He was doing a live broadcast from the school to promote a blood drive that the National Honor Society or someone was having. I asked him to play "The Heart Won't Lie" (which, sadly, was a big hit at the time) and he radioed in to Dave Clark to play it. I think it was the next song played. I also remember that as being the only time Dave ever played anything I wanted to hear!

    This was a somber post so I will leave the rest alone. But I will leave you with the hope that there is plenty of engagement material out there. Just don't hold your breath on getting married.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Eclectic: Thanks, and thanks for stopping by.

    robyn: :-)

    cindy: Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    shane: You sure have a good memory. If my memory was that good, I would never run short of blog material.

    "But I will leave you with the hope that there is plenty of engagement material out there. Just don't hold your breath on getting married."

    I can't make sense of those two sentences.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Awesome post - happy birthday to your dad!

    ReplyDelete
  10. WOW.... You have me crying. I don't think you know me that well, but I'm a 2nd cousin. Every once in a while, I'll stop by and read your entries. I remember your dad being in the hospital. I think my aunt Wanda called me and told me about it. I remember worrying about your dad and feeling bad for you, your mom, and sister. My dad (Joe) had open heart surgery, I think, a year before your dad was sick. It's a terrible feeling when your parents get sick like that.

    I always thought your mom had the coolest job. Well, I recently married someone in the same business.... HA...Not as cool as I thought.... LOTS of work. But there are some perks!

    Tell your friend Jonathan "Hello" for me. Back about 15 years ago, he dated my aunt Delora. (That boy could dance!!) lol Hey, I think he worked with Danny when there was a dance studio by the Skate Castle. lol Anyways...Great Post!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Shae. Good to hear from you. Never know who's reading this thing.

    I will always remember Joe putting money in Mom's pocket in case we needed some cash or whatever as we were about to leave for Birmingham.

    Yeah, the job has it's good and bad, like anything. Lots of weekends and holidays sometimes.

    I had no idea Jonathan could dance. But I think he does know Danny somehow.

    Hope you and your family are doing well.

    ReplyDelete