Daddy had a favorite joke he told me when I was a little girl about an Indian, a doctor, and a teepee. This joke has one not so nice word in it and when I was in the third grade I told it to my teacher and class.
If I try hard I can still hear Daddy's laughter loud and strong when I did that.
Daddy has been sick some lately and doesn't have the energy he did before this illness attacked his body. But his spirit is the same. Just today on my front porch, which is mine because of his and mama's love, he did that little wave of the hand and roll of the eye and sound from the throat he does when he talks about someone and how they ain't got no sense. His eyes, red from the attack of this still unnamed disease, had the same gleam in them they have always had.
With time all of us grow old. But when I look at my daddy I don't see age. I see the man who fell in love with my mother and gave up all possibilities of another kind of life to be the first man in the life of my sisters and me.
The man who could never bear to spank us, so he didn't.
The man who became caught in the middle of my teenage rebellion with my mama.
The man who stayed up all night with me after a hard day of work because my eyes were as big as quarters.
I see a daddy who allowed my mama to stay home and raise us. I'm sure sometimes he may think she raised us alone, but the power to keep us in her loving presence came from him.
That is a power born of love.
I always knew my daddy would come home at night. I always knew he would face the difficulties of life with us five girls in the forefront of his heart.
His words are few. Sentiment has creeped in as age has creeped up on him and lately he feels the need to love us more. But that's not possible, we have never felt unloved and have always felt love at its best.
His actions that began forty-seven years ago have spoken louder than words screamed from a mountain top ever could have.
Below are pictures of my daddy and tributes from my three sisters.
From Janice -
My daddy is basically a quiet man. He isn't much for "small talk." He left most of the day-to-day training and disciplining of us four girls to Mama. I don't think he ever spanked me (something which cannot be said of my mother!). He wasn't (isn't) the kissy-huggy type. Yet I have always known, without a doubt, that he loved me and was proud of me. How did I know?
1. Every morning Daddy got up and went to work. I am sure there were times that he would have liked to sleep in or lounge around or simply quit because things hadn't gone the way he wanted them to. But he was of that strange generation that thought a man's responsibility to his family was greater than his personal whims or desires. And, because of that, I always had good food, clothes and shoes that fit, a warm place to sleep, and several Barbie dolls. What more could a little girl want?
2. Every evening Daddy came home. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. He liked us. He wanted to be around us. If he got tired of all the femininity, he just went out and walked in his garden. But even then, we sometimes followed him. After all, we liked him, too.
3. Daddy made me mow the lawn and shell butterbeans. He instilled in me a good work ethic not only with his example, but also with the chores he expected me to do at home. Our yard was big, and there were a lot of butterbeans. But I didn't have to do any of it alone. He was always there to help.
4. Daddy thought I was smarter than I was. He thought I could learn my multiplication tables in one afternoon. (Took two years.) He thought I could write computer programs after only one semester of Basic. (I can't even work our new word processing program.) He thought I could make straight A's in college. (Let's just say that I didn't and leave it at that, okay?) He thought I could learn to drive in one afternoon. (He had Mama sign me up for Driver's Ed.) I couldn't do any of those things. But it was certainly nice to know that someone thought I could. And it make me try harder.
5. Daddy was baptized with me. There is just something about standing in those waters with your daddy that ties a bond that cannot be untied. We walked home together, and I felt like I was walking on a cloud.
There are more memories, and they are all good. He stuck up for me when I wanted to extend my curfew. He co-signed my student loan. He bought me toys and took me to the dentist and paid for youth trips, even if he had to do without himself. Until this past year when his health started getting bad, he would call me from work just to talk, even though I know he hates talking on the phone.
When my children were young, I wrote a short skit about my husband trying to watch TV. One by one, the three (now we have four) children entered the room, sat down in front of the TV, and "watched" the show with Daddy. Of course, in the end Stephen couldn't actually enjoy the movie because of all the questions, comments, and non-transparent bodies. I ran across it a few months ago while looking for something else. (If I had actually been looking for it, I would never have found it.) It really is funny, not because I am such a great writer, but because it was so true to our lives then.
As I read that skit, I thought back to my high school years and Star Trek. I loved that show. My daddy didn't. However, he didn't care if I watched it, except. . . Star Trek came on from 5:00 to 6:00. The news came on at 5:30. We only had one TV. Daddy liked to watch the news on that one TV while eating supper. Need I say more? Many a night he sat in his chair and watched Dr. Spock and Capt. Kirk while wondering why they didn't give kids more homework so their dads could watch the news. Oh, sometimes Mama would step in and say that I had to let Daddy have the TV. (I don't think she really cared for the voyages of the Enterprise, either. After all, they were all re-runs that I had seen before, anyway.) But, on the whole, he didn't complain too much. I think, deep down, he grew fond of the crew of the USS Enterprise and their ten-year mission. At least, he grew fond of laughing at them.
He had already had practice years before--when Mr. Rogers Neighborhood came on during the evening news. Then, he would come home to see both Marie and me lying on the living room floor, with no hope of homework. So, Daddy, which was better--flying spacecrafts or talking animal puppets? I'm just curious.
In some ways I take after you, Daddy. (Of course, we all know that. Mama used to say it was why I sometimes exasperated her so much!) I'm a quiet person, too. I'm not really the huggy/kissy type, and I don't like to talk on the phone. I hope I take after you in other ways, too. I hope I put my family first, before myself. I know I had rather be with them than anyone else. I try to be thrifty and hard-working. I want to think the best of others and encourage them to be the best they can be. All of these things I learned from you. I love you, Daddy. I hope you know that and never forget it.
Your oldest daughter and the one with the most common sense,
From Penny -
Let me warn you before this letter begins, that it may be quite lengthy and it will probably be filled with stories that you do not even remember. I have such odd memories of you and my childhood, not odd in a bad way. I love each and every one of them. But, as you read them you may think, “What a strange thing to remember”. Over the years as I have shared them with my children they have often said the same thing. Of course, they love the stories that I tell them about my childhood. I guess all children do. It helps them to realize that their parents really are human, that they haven’t always been adults.
For example, I can remember after Ma died when I read one of your letters to Ma and Pa while you were in the service. You thanked Ma for sending you a birthday gift, but told her that you didn’t get to open it. Someone had stolen it out of the car before you had a chance to even see what it was. I cried. I saw you in my mind’s eye as a skinny boy from a small town in a foreign country with no birthday present. I could imagine how sad and upset Ma would have been, knowing that she couldn’t afford to send you another present. In that moment I became very protective of that young man who would one day become my daddy. I wanted to go back in time and send you another present. My daddy was sad, homesick, and without a present.
That wasn’t the first time I saw you as “human” and not just “super parent”. The first time was when I was in high school. I remember how bad I begged you for a car. “Everyone has one, why won’t you buy me one?” I know I said those things over and over to you. I remember one evening you started to cry. I had never seen you cry before. You told me that you were sorry that you couldn’t afford to buy me a car like everybody else’s dad. I felt so bad. I had been so selfish. In my mind, you could do anything. I had never thought that maybe you wanted to buy me a car, but couldn’t. I also remember that it wasn’t very long before you got me one. I treasured that used Volvo because I knew that my daddy had sacrificed for me to get it.
Sacrifice. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of you, Daddy.
Hard working. That is the second word to describe you. I can only remember one time growing up that you missed work. I also remember that in the spring and summer you would come home from work and spend hours in the garden. Of course, I didn’t appreciate it at the time because it meant I had to shell beans and peas (which I hated) but I knew you were working hard.
Do you remember how you use to be in the garden tilling and I would “sneak” up behind you? I would think you didn’t know I was there walking in the footsteps you left behind. I remember one time how your steps began to be bigger and bigger and farther and farther apart. I remember starting to jump from one footprint to the other, trying so hard to keep up with you. Then, suddenly, you stopped and turned around and laughed at me. You had been playing a game with me. I bet I have told my children that story a hundred times (like the one you told us every time we drove past Trickum store).
I could go on and on about memories like Sanford and Son after the news each night, Hank Williams records playing while you slept on the couch, and milk and bread before you went to bed. But, I won’t. I know this is getting long and I have one more memory to share. I don’t exactly remember the first time that I heard this from you. It was such a part of you that I have always known it.
“We had better support Israel, because if we don’t, we are in trouble. God says he will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who don’t.”
I have learned lots of things from you over the 38 years of being your daughter. Important things such as it is not a wise decision to dump the supper scraps inside your daughter’s tomato cage that sits inside her pretty ring of flowers. The dogs will tear the flowers up and knock down the tomato plant trying to get to the scraps. Important lesson. But the most important one was about Israel. How fitting that the most important and most frequent memory I have of my earthly father is one that involves my heavenly father.
You may sometimes think that you were a bad father. I know I think I am a bad mother all the time. But, you were not. I always knew you were there. You came home every night. You were a steady, secure fixture in my childhood. I believe that I was so easily able to except the Father’s love because I had experienced my Daddy’s love.
The other day we were together praying after Bible time before Chris left for work. One of the children wanted all of us to pray out loud. That morning, as Jonathan started his prayer, the first words that came out of his mouth were…”Bless Israel and take care of the Israelites.” I sat there and thought about you. I rarely think of Israel without thinking about you. But that morning I thought about your legacy. You didn’t set out to leave this legacy. You probably didn’t even realize you did. But you have. Your grandson knows the importance of following the Lord in part from your example.
Legacy. That is my last word for you. Legacy.
How proud I am to be a part of that legacy. Penny Donald. Your daughter. Your legacy.
From Wendy -
Growing up I remember the needlepoint picture hanging in yours and mama's room which said, "A father is someone you look up to no matter how tall you grow." (I think Janice or Marie made the picture). When I was little I thought the phrase meant that I looked up to you because you were so tall! As I grew, I learned the true meaning of the phrase. No matter what happens, where I go or how old I get, you will always be someone that I will look up to.
I know at times you have wished that you had more to give us when we were growing up. I wish that you could truly understand that you have given me everything. I look around at some of the relationships my friends have with their parents and I realize how truly blessed I am. Daddy, you gave me a loving home - not a house or shelter, but a home. You showed me that family comes first. You dragged yourself to my terrible choral music concerts when I was in junior high even when I knew you would rather be sitting in your recliner reading the newspaper after a long day in the open pit mine. You even tried to teach me how to fish, but I just couldn't put a hook through those tiny little worms!
About a year ago, a co-worker asked me where I got my work ethic from and why I was so dedicated to my job. Before I even had time to think, I blurted out "my daddy." You taught me to work hard and to try not to complain. You taught me to always do my best. You taught me early on that the world isn't always fair, but that doesn't mean you don't keep your eye on the ball and work hard. (Trust me, this one lesson has been so helpful in the workplace!). You also taught me to never become a lazy employee, but to always go above and beyond what is required from me by helping others. You taught me these things not by necessarily sitting me down and telling me, but by being a role model. I saw how you lived your life and I wanted to live mine the same way. I hope you understand just how much you mean to me and how much I love and respect you!
When age creeps up on me and I'm at the end of my life I will still be Pete's little girl. With eyes as big as quarters because I'm thinking about my daddy . . .
the greatest man I've ever known.