Hey Dad. It’s been a while. Father’s Day just went by so I’m thinking about you more than usual. You know if you’d asked me 10 – 15 years ago I think I’d of said you were mostly just mean. Seems like the memories of violence and drinking were what stuck the most.
I've mellowed some. My boys are up big now and I’m flooded with memories of a different kind. Do you remember dragging us all to the Starlite Speedway in Monroe on Friday nights? I’d lean into the chain link fence and watch those old beat up cars bump and bang around the red clay track. When they came around the fourth turn it’d throw mud in our faces and down the front in little specks till the front was a film of clay.
Do you remember Uncle Benny driving that race car, biting his tongue underneath his black helmet til one night somebody finally bumped him back and he went over the far rail? I knew it scared you though you hollered and went on like you were mad. He sold the race car after that.
Do you remember how you’d make me go down to Beaver Creek at night and fish from the boat? You’d put those Coleman lanterns out over the black water and we’d sit there for hours pulling in crappy. The mosquitoes would be so bad I’d have welps in the morning. You hardly noticed them at all.
Do you remember throwing the baseball out in the front yard? You threw side armed like Don Drysdale cause you broke both your collarbones in a head on collision with a drunk driver. I knew it hurt cause you’d complain a little. To be honest I was glad because you threw it so hard it’d make me dance.
Do you remember all those times we’d fly down two lane blacktop leaving the ground on the “tickle hills” singing old hymns? You’d be smoking Marlboros like a freight train and you, Momma and me would work out the harmonies.
Do you remember the time you were working on an electrical problem with a vacuum cleaner at your workbench and little brother Stevie snuck up and banged a hammer on the bench? You jumped back so hard you slipped and had to catch yourself. Man did you cuss. It scared me at first but then we all ended up laughing. It was good to see you laugh, Dad.
The reason I’m bringing all this up now is because I got to thinking. Maybe he just wanted to spend time with me. Maybe he just thought if he could teach me enough, life might not be so hard like it was for him. Maybe … just maybe you were trying to be a better father than you had.
Maybe when we were fishing you were showing me how to be quiet and sit with nature in the dark.
Maybe you threw that baseball hard so when I played with the big kids I’d be used to it and not be scared.
Maybe singing those hymns was your way of taking me to church … of showing me what you believed and how you loved God.
Maybe when you started laughing that time Stevie scared you, you were laughing at yourself. It made us all better … I know that much.
I could go on and on because you see for the most part you were there after I turned twelve or so. It was hard to watch you fall. You were my hero when I was little so it broke my heart to see you destroy yourself.
Well Dad I suppose I just wanted to wish you Happy Father’s Day and let you know that I see things a little different now. Having the boys grow up has changed me. I love them so much it hurts so it makes me think … Maybe he just loved me and it was the best job he could do.