At family gatherings he somehow manages to be the center of attention. Everyone moves to be a little closer. He tells jokes and pokes fun and usually at someone’s expense, but that doesn’t matter. If you’re included you feel special.
He came from very little. 1 of 12 kids from a small house in The Bootheel of Missouri. Of the 12 my dad only had 4 sisters, so as one can imagine, they were always causing trouble. It’s funny though, the town was small, the house smaller, but if you heard him talk about where he came from, you would have believed he was a Rockefeller. He was so proud of his upbringing and so loyal to his family.
My dad worked hard. He really did. Sometimes two jobs, sometimes delivering newspapers, but always doing whatever it took. My dad was king of the side hustle before it was a thing. He was a man who believed in paying his bills too. I mean, if he couldn’t afford it, he didn’t buy it. I cannot remember ever seeing a late notice arrive in our mail. When he finally went to purchase a vehicle and get a loan, the loan officer told my dad his perfect credit score was like a unicorn. They didn’t exist.
Friday nights were about popcorn, soda and Uno or crazy 8’s or just any card game where we could all sit at the table. Friday nights were about family.
As I got older and wanted to keep up with my friends, I never really knew we didn’t have a lot of money. I had the designer jeans, the cool tennis shoes and I was always somehow able to go on the church trips and attend the camps that now, looking back, I know we couldn’t possibly afford. I can only imagine the sacrifices and extra hours that went in to make those things happen.
My dad was about commitment. If he said something, he meant it. When my dad told you he would show up- you better believe he did. Sometimes the first to arrive.
My dad hated being late. With two daughters, this sometimes proved to be difficult. Once, on a church night, my sister and I were still fixing our hair or doing our make-up, he decided it was time to leave, so he left us. No warning (besides the 200 times he’d tell us we’d be left if we didn’t hurry) he just left. We went to get in the car and it was gone. We moved faster after that.
My dad was about loyalty. If you were one of his, he would do anything for you. He wanted everyone around him to be okay. He would do whatever that took to make that happen. Let you move into his house with your four kids, pay to get your car fixed, or even, come pick up your kids and take them to school in the morning when you tore the ligaments in your ankle and couldn’t walk.
My dad was the first man I ever loved. So. When I began dating, first of all, if my dad didn’t like you, there probably wouldn’t be a second date. The big litmus test though, for me, was could you give him a good game of ping pong. Seriously, if you sucked at ping pong, there was no second date. My favorite guys were the ones who wanted to hang around my house on a Friday night playing ping pong with my dad.
My dad always believed in showing up. One of the best feelings for me was playing soccer at a far away school, looking up, and the only parent in the stands was my dad. I wouldn’t even know he was coming. That’s just how he rolled.
My dad is my hero. He taught me how to play sports. He taught me about work ethic and commitment. He taught me to always show up for the fight, even when you knew you were going to lose. He taught me to live without boundaries and he taught me that you could be rich without having money.
My dad is a really big deal.
Watching him lay in his hospital bed, looking like an old man is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve done some hard things. To say that this is a chapter in my life that I’m not prepared for is an understatement.
I watch him as the confusion sets in and I want to hold him and kiss his forehead and make it all okay — the way he did for me when I skinned my knee or lost a big game. However this ends, I know, without any doubt, I was one of the luckiest ones.
I will forever and always be Daddy’s Girl.