Monday, December 03, 2007

Remembering Daddy

The first thought on my mind today about today's date was not, "Daddy died 6 years ago today." No, it was, "Hey, it's Michelle's birthday!" I am happy that I am finally at a point where I think of my friend's birthday before thinking of the day my dad passed away.

I'm really sad that he never met Brad or Nyssa, even though I know they'll all meet some day (hopefully FAR FAR FAR in the future).

My dad had a knack for a mean chess game and could play anything on the guitar. My two favorites were "Gentle Breeze" from the Music Machine record, and "You Can Close Your Eyes" by James Taylor and remade by lots of people - Carly Simon, Kate Taylor, Linda Ronstat, Richie Havens, Maureen McGovern, and probably others that aren't listed on the website that came up when I Googled it to find out who originally wrote it. I know there's a recent version that gets played on easy listening stations, as it'll come on sometimes when Brad and I have gone out to eat. It always, ALWAYS results with me in tears after picking up just a note or two of it. I tried to sing it to Nyssa once, and didn't even get through the second line without choking up. Fortunately, she was asleep by then and didn't notice (that, and she was 6 weeks old so she probably didn't care anyway).

Speaking of chess, Daddy taught us to play when we were really young. He showed us how to win a chess game in four moves, but unfortunately it only works with a novice chess player - any seasoned player will see it coming and thwart it immediately.

We always went roller skating as a family on Sunday afternoons. I was skating about the time I started walking, or shortly thereafter (or so I'm told anyway!).

We'd spend the weekends with him after my parents split up. Sometimes he'd take us to Crystal's Pizza and we'd sit in the cartoon room and watch Little Rascals or Pink Panther and then get to play skee ball and other video games. Sometimes we would just order pizza from there and have it delivered, and play Nintendo games at his house.

He would pick us up after school and take us to Baskin Robbins. I always got either pralines and cream, daquari ice, or on the rare occasion, bubble gum. I'm sad that they have changed the way they make the daquari ice and it no longer looks or tastes like it did.

My dad spent a TON of time teaching me things when I was very small. He read to me constantly and as a result of the time he spent with me, I was reading when I was three years old. I knew the Greek alphabet when I was 4 (I did not retain that knowledge, however!). Dad was insistent on us not only memorizing the Lord's Prayer, but also the Apostles' Creed (which I also do not remember - the Creed, that is...I will never forget the Lord's Prayer!).

My mom has a Christmas decoration that is a train where the cars spell "N-O-E-L." We would always find that train saying, "L-E-O-N," after Dad had visited.

My friends from my childhood most likely know that my dad was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. He spent a lot of time in the VA hospital in Big Springs. He would function pretty well when he was taking his meds, but when he stopped, he'd have a breakdown and have to go back to Big Springs.

He called my brother once requesting that he send him a post card. With a horse on it. It was just like my dad to make goofy requests such as that.

The last conversation I had with him was out on my mom's front porch on Thanksgiving day. He talked about how he considered his cigarettes prayer sticks and as he smoked them, he prayed for his brothers and sisters (he had 14 of them). I don't remember much more from that conversation other than in the last 2 minutes it turned ugly and I had to walk away from him and go into the house. A week later my mom called to let me know he had died suddenly (and quite unexpectedly). I felt awful that the last conversation we were to have on this earth had ended so poorly, but was thankful for the first 43 minutes that had gone well.

My dad was a very giving person, to a fault at times. His "friends" knew it and often took advantage of it. He was always wanting to help out anyone in need. He always tipped the Sonic car hops (and now I do it in memory of Dad). When he would take us to the Sonic on North 1st in Abilene, he would always park his car so that the big neon COKE/Coca Cola sign was visible from the parking spot.

There's a street just on the south side that has a significant dip in it - he was always willing to give us kids a thrill by driving as fast as he could down the road (within reason, of course). I wish I could remember the name of that street - I wonder if they've fixed it or if you still get air time if you go over it fast enough.

My absolute favorite memories of my dad are of him playing his guitar and us singing together. I have a recording of my dad and me singing when I was a very young child. It used to be on a cassette tape, but now it's on a CD (which is packed in a box somewhere at the moment). If I knew where it was, I'd share it, but I am not sure right now where it is.

I can't believe I almost forgot to mention that we shared a birthday. He was exactly 24 years older than I, right down to the day. He always said I was the best birthday present ever. We came up with a secret little handshake when I was little that we continued to do even after I was an adult. There were times as a teenager that I would roll my eyes in my mind, but as I got older I enjoyed our little 1-2-3-4 pinkie shake. Silly, yes, but it was special to us. He always signed his letters with "1,2,3,4."

When I moved to Santa Barbara, he would send me $21 a week so I'd have $3 a day to eat on. I never asked for it, but was always glad to get it as money was pretty tight then!

He was a faithful letter writer. Somewhere upstairs I have a box and an envelope with letters from him.

He was an MP in the Army. He was in Korea during the Vietnam war. He was a 100% disabled Veteran. I seem to recall him working for the post office at some point, but need to verify that information with my mother. He hung sheetrock in the Abilene Mall when it was being constructed. I know he probably had other odd jobs at different times, but most of the time he didn't work because he couldn't. He'd think he could, so he would get a job and his VA benefits would stop. Then the stress of the job would take its toll and he'd end up back in the hospital, and it would take some time for the VA benefits to kick back in again. I know he always felt guilty for taking money without working for it.

It's hard to believe he's been gone for six years already. Daddy, I miss you.


Erin said...

That was so sweet. It brought tears to my eyes, and I'm sure it did to yours too when you wrote it. I know your dad appreciates that. Has it really been six years?

misty said...

I know this is kind of late, but the name of the street was Portland (I think) and years ago they filled in the dip and made it a dead-end street :-(
That was the one beside the old Taco Bueno on N. 1st, right?
I'm glad you wrote this. I had forgotten about the pinkie shake y'all did. And I learned some stuff I never knew.

I meant to take flowers out there that day but I had two concerts and also a project due the next day... I guess it's not too late.