I woke up this morning thinking about my dad. 6:30 a.m. was way too early to call him. At his age, 83, he doesn't jump out of bed quite as easily as he did when I was a child and growing up amidst all my siblings on Elm Street in Coshocton, Ohio.
When I was a little girl, my dad was ten feet tall. He had all the answers for all of the questions you could ever think of. He could fix anything that broke. If you got a bump, he would have you soak it in Epsom Salts and it got better -- if it was a cut, he painted it with "daddy's red paint" (Mercurochrome) and that got better, too. In this child's eyes, my dad was the smartest man in the world and he could do anything.
He was a quiet, reserved man. It took a lot to make him even raise his voice, and believe me, with six children in the house, an assortment of foster children in and out over the years, and all of our friends, you would have thought anyone would blow, but he stayed calm, no matter how many kids were around. He taught us with the patience of Job that there's always room for one more.
I remember one valuable lesson about life he taught me when I was about ten years-old. I never forgot it. In our home, dad was the one who did the grocery shopping. Mama made her list and gave it to dad, and then he usually took one of us along to help him with the many grocery bags. This particular day, it was my turn. When we finally got to the cash register, the cashier announced that the bill was $122.56. In 1959, that was a lot of money. To me at ten years-old, that had to be at least the price of a new car. I watched the expression on his face turn to a firm resolve as he reached into his wallet and handed her the money.
As we put the groceries into the back of our station wagon and climbed into the front seat for the drive home, I thought about it. I was thinking of ways I could help save money since he had spent so much at the store. I remembered all the times I had heard mama or daddy tell us to turn off the TV or lights if we weren't using them, and I vowed to myself to do a better job. I must have been uncharacteristically quiet, because right about then, daddy asked me if everything was all right. I told him yes, but then asked, "Daddy, are we poor?"
Daddy only thought about it for a second and then said, "No, honey. We're not poor. We're not poor at all. We just don't have a lot of money."
I've thought about that day many times in the years since. His message is so clear. Life doesn't have to be so serious. Puddles are there for splashing and mud is for making mud pies and a hug will fix just about everything. He taught us that no matter what, love is what's important. Love is measured in so many precious minutes -- it's important that we not miss them, for who knows, life might be metered in only hours.
To Daddy ...
Any man can be a father.
The good ones become dad.
There are papas, pops and pa's
and even my old man,
but only the very special ones
stay forever "daddy".
I love you, Daddy.