Another Fathers Day. This month my father would have been 90 years old. And it just doesn't seem possible that he's been gone 20 years in July. It seems like only yesterday I was driving back and forth from Atlanta nearly every weekend while he was in the hospital. And with every trip, he would tell me to stay home. He was gravely ill and yet worried about me traveling.
And why is it that time turns our memories to faded photographs: still shots of our lives? What was an ongoing linear life is now a flash of a picture in the back of the mind. I can see his facial expression when he would laugh. I can remember him toiling over sales figures. I try to remember everything he ever said to me.
And with each year that marches on, a little more of the memory escapes.
He was a good man. I don't use that phrase a lot. I used it the other day to describe a man with whom I went to high school. And it stopped me in my tracks. That phrase encompassed everything that was my father: hard-working, patriotic, honest. His integrity and his name were cherished by him more than all the gold in the world. I watched him leave a job once because they were requiring he “fudge” the numbers and over-sell his customers. He refused to compromise on his integrity. He refused to be short-sighted for expediency's sake. And it took several months for him to obtain employment. He struggled with his ability to provide for us. Yet, that was a time I remember keenly being so proud of him. I respected him.
He wasn't demonstrative. He showed his love through his character and by providing for us all. He wasn't a rich man – monetarily. But he was rich in spirit. That is something no amount of money can buy. He believed in helping others. Instead of detailing his own sales car, he paid a disabled Vietnam vet to do it. He wanted to support him and that was a way he could do it and maintain the man's dignity. He knew the value of hard work and a job well-done.
He was a part of the greatest generation. He volunteered and served both in WWII and Korea. Dad was a submariner. How he lived on that tiny diesel sub, I'll never understand. When we moved to Alabama, he took me through the USS Drum here. I couldn't imagine him fitting inside that small thing. But he did. It was one of only a couple of times he discussed his service. I felt so honored he would bring me through there, explaining to me all of the do-dads and gadgets. It was one of my favorite times with him.
I miss his counsel. He rarely simply offered his opinion. He didn't waste words. But when asked, he shared wisdom born of a difficult life. He always knew just what needed to be said. He led by example. He had high expectations. Were I to be given one wish, it would be for another day with him. I still have so many questions that only he can answer. I would tell him I love him one more time. I would let him know how deeply he affected me.
And when I feel as though I've failed him, I remember him telling me to try again. Engage my brain. I hope that in my short life, I live up to the standard he set. I hope that when I pass through the veil from this life to the next, he is there to greet me and tell me I've done well.
So, Happy Fathers Day, daddy. You are missed more than you will ever know.