Remembering Daddy, who gave me wings

Published 6:26 pm Friday, June 13, 2014

Daddy died on Father’s Day 1983.
So, for me “Happy Father’s Day” is an oxymoron.
Losing a parent leaves a void in your life that can never be filled. But memories kind of sift down into that hole and keep it from being quite so deep.
Around Father’s Day every year, I fall back on memories of Daddy to kind of “shore me up,” so to speak.
Daddy wasn’t a talker. He didn’t have much to say except, like Mama said, when you didn’t want to know what he had to say.
But he didn’t need to say much. He was the kind of man that walked softly and carried a big stick.
Daddy had a quick temper. He would “flare up” without warning but he simmered down in a hurry. Mama was different. Daddy said she could carry a grudge farther than anybody he’d ever seen. Mama didn’t have many grudges to tote but she hung on to them for dear life, as Daddy would say.
While Mama kept a peach tree switch on top of the refrigerator at all times and a fly swatter hanging next to the back door, Daddy never whipped me but one time. I was six years old.
Aunt Eleanor and my grandmother, Mugi, were spending a few days with us. While they were sitting in the living room with Mama and Daddy talking, I was over on the sofa playing paper dolls that I had cut out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog – the same kind of catalog that Mama had ordered the brand new sofa slipcovers from. The new slipcovers were gray with big, colorful flowers. About the prettiest thing we had.
I got so involved in my playing that I just kept putting off the necessary thing – until it was too late. If the embarrassment of the “accident” wasn’t enough, it had happened on Mama’s new sofa slipcover and in front of my aunt, who was about the most special person in the world to me. Then, for the first time in my life, Daddy spanked me. It broke my heart.
I promised myself right then and there, that I would never give Daddy another reason to spank me for the rest of my life.
I didn’t.  Or, at least, I made sure that I was far enough from home that he wouldn’t know.
Growing up, Daddy was my ally.
Mama’s apron strings were made of cable steel. There was no cutting them. She saw danger in everything. Daddy, on the other hand, saw danger in nothing.
My greatest desire as a 10-year-old was to jump off the high dive at the Brundidge swimming pool.
Mama said, no. That I would probably break my neck. Daddy said, “Sure go ahead but, if you do break your neck, don’t tell your mama.”
When I graduated from high school, it was Daddy who helped me get a job at Yellowstone National Park. Mama said that summer took 10 years off her life. Daddy responded with a grunt.
If it had not been for Daddy, I probably would have been a spinster who spent her days winding strings into balls.
As the saying goes, Daddy gave me wings.
Looking back, I know that Daddy had wings, too. He knew when to fly and when to come back to down to earth. He was a pilot during World War II and, when he came home, he was content to be a husband and a father.
“I’ve been everywhere I wanted to go,” he would say when we tried to get him to go somewhere. “Y’all go on. I’ll be here watching ‘Perry Mason.’”
Knowing Daddy was “there” was a great comfort. He went about life in his quiet way. He didn’t say much but we always knew that he cared. He had his ways of showing love. Often the love was expressed with a little brown paper sack filled with candy or a pat on the head. But most often, it was with a wink of the eye and the assurance to “Go ahead just don’t tell your mama.”
I did and I didn’t.
Thanks for my wings, Daddy.

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