Saturday, June 14, 2008

Putting Daddy On A Pedestal

I haven't given a lot of thought to Father's Day for a many years. But, it occurred to me the other day that if my father were alive, he would just have celebrated his 100th birthday, on May 31st. Of course, that started me thinking about him. My memories of him are vague, as he died at age 49, back in 1957, so it has been interesting trying to bring up mental images of him.

Since I was an only child, I got all of his attention (she said smugly). We bonded early and the bond was strong. My mother used to lament (kidding, I hope) that we always ganged up on her.

Daddy was nurturing and fun-loving. He was very playful, and used to go outside with me and chase me around a big tree in the front yard and play catch with me. He was so proud when, upon arriving home one evening, all the other kids in the neighborhood ran to him, yelling, "Uncle Doc, Uncle Doc, Betty hit a home run!"

One of his best friends was the Methodist Minister of his childhood. That said, we hardly ever went to church. Instead, he made hospital rounds on Sunday morning, usually taking me with him. He was on the staff of both hospitals in Little Rock, but I only went with him to St. Vincent's. It was a teaching hospital, run by the Sisters of Mercy, and where mother got her nurse's training.

I remember clambering through the passthrough window at the business office and the nuns would entertain me while he made his rounds. I always came back to him with my cheeks fiery red from being pinched.

He took care of everyone in the neighborhood. Every spring, he brought home typhoid serum and all the neighborhood children lined up in our kitchen for their typhoid shots. And, when his brother died, he took care of my aunt and two cousins, making sure they had whatever they needed.

All I had to do was call him, and he brought home the latest record from the record shop across the street from his office. When I was five years old, he taught me to point to, and name, all the bones in the body, then trotted me out to entertain company by reciting them.

He sat on the back steps with me while I cried because I had asked a boy to a dance my social club was giving, and the boy turned me down with a lame excuse that I recognized as a lie. And, when I hit puberty, it was Daddy who explained all the changes my body and emotions were making. Then, he turned beet red the day I ran to him and told him, dramatically, that I had "become a woman."

He told me bedtime stories and sat up with me until Two O 'Clock in the morning because I wanted to watch "The Fall of the House of Usher" on television, and he was afraid it would scare me. It did. He took me to all of the Arkansas Travelers baseball games, and many of the North Little Rock High football games, because he was the team doctor.

He loved trains. We went down to the station and stood on an overpass and watched the trains come in and go out. The thrill of his life was when one of the engineers let him ride in the cab (illegally, probably) one time.

He was a 32nd Degree Mason, and when the Consistory burned down in Little Rock, he went and helped bring out the records and as much furniture as they could rescue. Mother and I stood at a window on the 14th floor of the Donaghey building, and watched the roof cave in, and hoped no one was inside at the time.

It's a good thing he wasn't alive when I divorced. I'm sure he would have given his son-in-law a good big piece of his mind. But, I do wish he had lived to get to know his grandchildren. He would have been a great pal to Jay. And Kell, well, he would have adored her.

I used to wonder what my life would have been like if he had lived longer. I do know I have always been a little envious of other women whose fathers were still living throughout their adult years.

I still miss him.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute to your dad's memory. Thanks for sharing it.

Dianne said...

such lovely anecdotes
and funny ones
and sweet ones

I'm sorry your Dad didn't live to know his grandchildren. I can almost picture Jay doing vlogs with his GrandPa :)

but wow - what wonderful memories and what genuine love he gave you.

that's a treasure isn't it!?

hugs betty.

Golden To Silver Val said...

As long as you have memories of him, he lives on. Such a great testimony to a wonderful man. I have similar memories of my father...and I still miss him as well. We were lucky to have had them.

Sister--Three said...

He sounds like a great Dad. You were lucky to have him...yes, having him longer would have been even better.

Jay said...

I wish he had lived long enough for me to have known him personally.

kenju said...

I enjoyed reading this. My dad was also a 32 Degree Mason!

Mari Meehan said...

I've noticed that most of my friends, real friends, cyber and otherwise, had wonderful memories of their Dads.

I think it says a lot for us and a lot for our Fathers for they have made their mark. That we still miss them so much makes it even more special.

savannah said...

what a lovely tribute, sugar! xox

Raven said...

What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful father. My father - who was a good, kind man - lived to be 80 but it sounds like in his short years, you had more of your father than many of us get in much longer spans of time. Quality beats quantity. This was beautiful.

Anonymous said...


That was a beautifully written and loving tribute to your Dad.

He showered you with a lot of love in the short time that you had together.

I had a loving Dad,too and he lived to a ripe old age. I'm sorry that wasn't the case with you, but ,as Raven said, quality always beats quantity.

Cazzie!!! said...

Fond memories of your dad, just as I have of mine, yes, they live through us and our stories of them... I wish my dad was here to spend it with my kids too, but I do get to tell them of stories, I hope they remember them.

Linda Murphy said...

What a lovely tribute and such wonderful, loving memories.

Perhaps you'll see sparks of your dad through his grandchildren.

Sadly, my dad is alive and makes little to no effort to see his grandsons at all and it breaks my heart. So, I really love to hear wonderful and positive stories about dads-it always lifts my spirits and perspective.

Anonymous said...

What a truly beautiful tribute to your daddy x