The Grace of My Father
My daddy died on Thanksgiving morning of 1992 while dressing for the holiday being held at my sister’s house.
Sometimes life leaves us like that, in full excitement over a family gathering, only to have one loss that changes the course of events for weeks, even years to come.
Most of my family were already on their way that holiday morning, and were told “the Old Man” had passed, just as they came onto the porch with their covered dishes, their contribution to another family meal.
My sister, having often tried to make the perfect dish for daddy, also had both a sense of humor and a quick response on hearing the news.
“Well, he sure knows how to ruin a cheese log.” Everyone burst into laughter, then tears.
When my daddy left us, it was as if time stood still, and many of his items were never touched again. His old truck, which only he could ever get to run, was left beside the house. One day weeks after he was gone, I opened the truck door to take out his old hunting knife and last pouch of Beech Nut chewing tobacco. I carry them with me on every road trip I make now, 28 years later.
Today, when I visit our old home place, I can see the remnants of a life well lived and recall the smallest imprints of memory my Daddy left me. We’d hunt, fish and tell ghost stories by the fire late into many evenings. After a good joke, his laugh was deep, loud and long, finishing on a higher note, as if he was trying to keep it in.
Once, at 18 when I was very sick with pneumonia and no doctor’s treatment had worked, my daddy roused me from my bed and said, “Let’s go for a drive.” I lay in the seat with my head on his lap, covered in a blanket. We ended up at a local church, in the middle of the night, and he went inside to pray. My dad had never seen the interior of a church since I was a young boy. It was the sight of his stooped frame moving slowly up to the front door and taking off his hat before going inside to pray for his ill son that remains with me to this day.
“I don’t talk to God that often,” he said as he climbed back into the truck. “But when I do, it seems to get His attention.”
Though items we leave behind may rust and ruin, the gifts of memory, those selfless acts done for nothing but love’s sake, remain with us to our dying days.
Red Dirt Memories – March 2018