I woke up this morning feeling homesick for my dad. It was 5:30 and way too early to call him. At his age, he doesn't hop 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 boo-boo 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 the cut got better, too. In this child's eyes, my dad was the smartest man in the whole world and he could do anything.
He was a quiet, man. It took a lot to make him raise his voice, and believe me, with six children in the house, an assortment of foster kids in and out over the years, plus all of our friends, you would think anyone would blow, but he kept his cool, no matter what.
Here's an example of his temperament: When daddy taught each of us how to drive, we had one cardinal rule. We HAD to wear our seat belt because he loved us and wanted us to be safe -- that was like one of the Ten Commandments, #11 -- and NOT to wear our seat belt meant losing our right to drive for two weeks. If we broke that rule, he never said a word. When the guilty party drove home, parked, and got out of the car, if he saw from the house we weren't wearing our seat belt, he met us at the front door silently with his hand out for us to deposit the car keys. He didn't have to say anything, we knew -- the rule had come from his heart and we knew it.
I remember one valuable lesson he taught me when I was about ten -- I never forgot it. In our home, dad did the grocery shopping. Mama made her list and gave it to dad, and then he took one of us along to help him with the grocery bags. This particular day, it was my turn. When we 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 firm resolve as he reached into his wallet and handed her the money.
As we put the groceries in 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 if I was okay. I told him I was fine, but then asked, "Daddy, are we poor?"
Daddy only thought about it for a second before he reached over and patted me on my arm and 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 so many times in the years since. It taught me an invaluable lesson about life -- I even kept it in my heart while I raised my own three girls. His message was so clear: we had everything that was truly important.
For most of us, we have a tendency to take life way too seriously. As Jimmy Buffett says, "I just wanna live happily ever after, every now and then ..." Puddles are there for splashing in and mud is for making mud pies and a hug ... well, a hug will fix just about everything else.
Daddy 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 any of them, for no one knows, life might be metered in hours.
... oh, and he's still ten feet tall. I'm going to go call him.