Anyone who knew my daddy will tell you lived to serve others, and he tried to instill the same in me, though too often I miss the mark and the times I come close, I teeter dangerously near the brink of co-dependence, which I’ll save for another blog. For this one (and for his birthday), I want to talk about my #1 man and the relationship I was blessed to experience as his daughter.
From the time I was little, Daddy taught me to put myself in other people’s shoes. Come Christmas time, he’d ask my brother and me to clean up the toys we were no longer playing with so we could “Make Christmas” for others. At his funeral I heard story after story of how Dad, in some small way, had made a huge impact on a life, be it saving a family’s farm from foreclosure or getting their kids through school. I heard from ball players he coached (the DeKalb County Bank “Loan Arrangers” –Dad had a great wit about him) and from folks he’d counseled in AA, each touched in some personal way that was uniquely Dad.
A country banker by profession, Dad viewed banking as his calling. Where a preacher might be called to preach, Dad felt he was called to help those with life’s most basic challenges--things tied to money and the ability to manage it. He was there for farmers as well as business types…high school graduates seeking college loans or even the 5 year old kid (another story I learned at his funeral) that Dad had loaned $5, allowing him to pay it back 50 cents at a time, so the child could buy a bike while learning how loans work..
He was my mentor, my business partner, my spiritual advisor and my best friend. But lest I paint too rosey a picture here, let me also say the man could unnerve me faster than any person on the planet with his worrying and “devil’s advocate” role playing (something that, to a creative mind, led me to believe half the time the man must’ve thought I didn’t have a brain in my head). I know now he was only trying to protect me…to teach me…to have me not assume everything was going to work out peachy keen just because I wished it so. But to me, it was sheer hell to have him launch in, after I'd shared some wonderful something I was on Cloud 9 for having landed, only to have him start with the 20 questions loaded with doubts, suspicions and fears, should it not turn out the way I was picture-perfectly painting it in my mind's eye.
He used to say he had a right to worry as a father. That one in particular drove me bonkers as too often his worry got in the way of my creativity. We had some knock down drag outs over business and budgets and things like whether I could afford the building I was rebuilding, or the project I was about to launch. But through it all, I never once doubted the man’s love for me, nor the seriousness in which he took his role as a father.
When it came Dad’s time to go everyone worried I might not bounce back. (If you call this bouncing back. Heck, they may be right.) I had (as had all our family) been by his bedside round the clock and I, for one, was growing weary of watching the mechanics of his human body give way to the hum of a machine. He did not feel “in there” to me, plus when it came to Dad, there was nothing left unsaid (which to me, should be everyone’s goal before saying goodbye to someone you love). I decided to throw myself into some task that might help in the days ahead, knowing when he really was gone, I’d be less in the mood, so I started crafting his obituary as I sent him a telepathic message saying “Dad, when this is done, I’m leaving. I’m sorry. This is not fun for me.”
I finished the writing, closed my laptop. I turned to the family and friends still near and said, “I’ve got to go.” I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t even emotional. I was, in a word, exhausted. Plus, I felt his habit of worrying for me might be the reason he was still here.
I left the hospital and called a friend, asking if he had time to grab dinner. I needed sustenance. I needed a shower. I needed to begin to process my father’s passing in the one way I knew he would want me to, which is to say, by focusing on life and all things living.
I dropped by my friend’s place, grabbing the overnight bag I had been living out of for the past 48; grabbed a shower to wash off the hospital grime, and while drying my hair, I cranked up some music to shift the vibration in hopes of filling the empty in my heart, when ZAP! Out went the dryer, my music and the lights my room (and this room alone). The rest of the lights, the television, everything else in my friend’s condo were working just fine.
I yelled through a cracked door suggesting we check the fuse box, as obviously a fuse had blown. Turns out it had not. In that same split second, my phone rang, the ID revealing it was my brother. I answered with two words: “I know.”
“What do you mean you know?” He sounded puzzled. “It just happened. No one here has made a call.” Dad had just died.
“I know.” I said looking up to the ceiling... “He did a fly by.”
From the time I was little I dreaded the day my daddy would leave the planet. I fretted about it when falling asleep. I said extra prayers asking God to let him live a good long life, as I could not imagine mine without him. God granted me that wish, and for reasons I may never understand, God did me one better. From the day he called his servant home, He instilled in me this sense of presence, the likes of which are probably best reserved for a show like Beyond Reason. In a way, I don’t technically miss Dad (though I DO miss his hugs). I honestly feel him with me each and every day. And the best part of all? For once I don’t think he’s worrying.
I love you Daddy. Happy Birthday in heaven. I hope you spent your day fishing and I hope they're baking you a cake!