August 16, 2019

I apologize, this is not a beer post.

Around 4pm on August 16th, my big brother called me, in tears. I knew, but didn’t want to know, what he was about to tell me. Our daddy had died. He hadn’t been sick, he was only 67, we were not prepared.

Mom died almost 13 years ago, when I was 19. August 16th would have been their 39th wedding anniversary. I am not a strong believer in the afterlife, but now more than ever, I want there to be one. I want to believe that they are reunited. Even if it’s only a place for them and I never get to visit… I need for this to be true.

I am not okay. Everything I think and say is a cliche from some worn out chick flick…but there is a hole in my heart. He was so strong, with the biggest personality and so much love to give… my heart cannot handle this loss. I keep saying I cannot do this again, I do not mean it in a ‘jump off a cliff’ sort of way, I just don’t know how I can possibly get through this without breaking apart.
I mean, he’s my daddy… when mom died it was so hard, but we had him. Even after he got remarried and everything changed… we still had him, it was just a little different and definitely a little strained sometimes. But we had him.

My brother has shown me some texts from friends he grew up with, talking about how dad was such a big influence for them. A lot of them didn’t have strong father figures and it makes me so warm inside to know he was that for so many. It causes the pain to magnify as well.

Right now I can still hear his voice. I haven’t said any of his little “catch phrases” out loud for fear that my own voice will erase his. I am holding onto it for as long as I can. We talked on the phone Thursday night and I can still hear “Love you”.

My daddy was so handsome. He had strong features from his dad’s side of the family. He was a big man but the kindest you could find. He was only intimidating until you talked to him…and then maybe again if you ever saw him mad because it took an awful lot to get him there..
I always thought about dad when I read this quote from The Kingkiller Chronicles :

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon,
and the anger of a gentle man.”

I have always credited him for some of my core interests, like nature and fantasy stories. I just never knew how much that fact would hurt once he was gone. Jayson asked me yesterday if I wanted to go for a walk, just to get me out of the house. The idea of going and being with nature made me so sad, I couldn’t stand the idea. I know this will pass, it will eventually become a time when I feel closer to him…but right now the fact that he’s not really here is too painful.

On the one hand you want to pain to stop, but on the other, it’s the only thing you have left of them…

I’m talking in cliches again.

Let’s talk more about daddy.

He was born July 15, 1952 in Seymour Tx, his mom went back home to Seymour to have all of her babies. He is the middle child and never suffered from “middle child syndrome” no sir he was absolutely convinced that he was the favorite.
He was always so close to his baby sister Jerri, I heard stories my whole life about how they would terrorize uncle Bill.
Where ever they lived, he was always finding critters and bringing them home. There was one story that had two different endings depending on who told it. Granny would say she opened the shower in the little bathroom upstairs to find an owl staring at her. Daddy would tell me after we left “I don’t know why she says that. It wasn’t an owl. It was a snake.”
Neither were probably ideal for Granny to find in her shower.

Daddy joined the Marines after high school, he was drafted to the Army but he was working to provide for his family, so the Marines said they’d give him 6 more months before boot camp.
He never had to go to Vietnam, while he was in basic they were sending everyone home. But he did deal with the dislike everyone his age had for the military. I has always broken my heart to think of him so depressed.
While he was in he definitely got up to some shenanigans. There was the owl that he found wounded in the middle of the road. He brought it home to the barracks. She stayed there on his box fan for a while. He didn’t believe anyone when they told him she was flying around the barracks at night. But sure enough she had gotten better and was flying around in search of mice.
He also brought back a snake, it got loose in the car and ended up under his seat. They got stopped for a random drug search and the drug dog was ruined. He said it backed away howling because of the scent of the snake. He let the snake go around the guard shack.

After the Marines he went to TCJC. He was working out in the gym on campus when he saw a beautiful girl on the balance beam. It was my mama. We learned years later, after she died, that she had actually been walked to the gym by another guy who was trying to chat her up. She walked in and saw this tall, lean guy on the rings, and the would-be-suitor knew he didn’t have a hope. So when daddy saw her, she might have been showing off a little bit.
They dated for a few years and got married on August 16, 1980, after she graduated from UNT.
They had my brother a year later and he always said he thought their little family was perfect. He say mom had other plans, and he was so happy that she did because 6 years later I was born.

While he was in the service he was given a copy of The Hobbit. It became his favorite story. He would revisit it, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, every couple of years. When we were little The Hobbit was our bedtime story. James or Danielle would go on a grand adventure with Gandalf and the dwarfs in search of the Lonely Mountain and the lost treasure of the King under the Mountain, which was guarded by Smaug.

Daddy worked. He worked hard jobs with long hours, he always said “You’re not to good for any job. You do what you have to do to put food on the table.” I’ve always tried to go by this motto, I show respect for anyone in any profession, especially blue collar. Don’t look down on the working (wo)man, they’re doing what you don’t want to, and many of them actually love their jobs. My dad did. he loved working for the phone company and climbing towers.

Can we talk about that for a second, just to talk about his fearlessness. Daddy worked on towers for almost 40 years I’d guess, first for a company, then for himself. In his own business, Towers Complete, he didn’t wear any rigging, except for his climbing belt, so he could hook to the tower if he needed a break or needed his hands to work. His words of comfort to anyone helping him on a job, once they got about 50-100ft up he’d stop them and say “okay, so from here, if you fell. You’d just die.”
It was honestly a comfort to him, rather than the alternative to be horribly injured.

He was a firm believer in “if I (insert sudden death here), then it was just my time.”
So there is some comfort in the fact that he did just that. He didn’t have to suffer through an illness like his dad or his “best girl.” He got to go quickly and in a place that he loved.

About 3 years after Mom died, Daddy remarried. He and Judy had known each other in the Marines and reconnected. A couple of years ago they bought a house out in Scroggins, Texas on Lake Cypress Springs. It was his little piece of paradise. Tall pine trees, a boat dock just a mile down the road. It was absolutely the place you would imagine my daddy living.

He was an outdoors man. He taught James and me to fish. I remember him pulling off the road when he’d see a creek and we’d go down and fish. When I was really little I would “finger fish.” A little bit of fishing line tied to my finger, in the creeks I wasn’t catching anything bigger than a perch. He took us camping, even when I got older I’d go out to Lake Whitney with him. We’d always try and get the same camp site at Loafer’s Bend, camp site W19. It was a beautiful cliff camp site. You practically had the whole channel to yourself. We would only go during the week because the lake was too noisy on weekends. You go into nature to be with nature.
“If you’re real quiet, you might see something.”

When we were young we went on adventures that most people probably wouldn’t have taken their young daughter on. We would go rollerblading at the old Hollywood theater in Burleson, then we’d walk along the rail road tracks and into the fields along side it. You couldn’t do that now, the tracks that go over 1187 used to be level with the ground, and those fields are now houses. We would also go to what I now know is called Echo Lake in Fort Worth. We just called it The Gravel Hills. Dad, James, me and our dog Prince would go climbing on those hills for hours, then we’d go exploring the old factory.
He showed us how to find critters. You’d see old boards or something out in the fields, you lifted them (away from you in case of snakes) and see what was living underneath. Usually just creepy crawlies.

It’s so hard to know how to end this I have been writing this for over 2 weeks. I keep having to walk away from it, which is one reason it’s sort of jumpy and probably repetitive.
I could go on for ever telling stories about my daddy and not wanting it to end because he should still be here. There are moments when I still have to remind myself it’s real. I will never get another phone call or another hug.

So I should just finish with part of a farewell from The Hobbit.
May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.

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