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..."