Friday, March 2, 2012

Memories of My Dad

My Dad, Joe Parrish
I woke up this morning feeling homesick for my dad. It was only 4:30 in the morning though, 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 with all my siblings on Elm Street in Coshocton, Ohio.

When I was a little girl, my dad was ten feet tall. He had all of the answers for all of your questions and he could fix anything that broke.

If you got a boo boo, 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 world and he could do anything.

He was a quiet man. It took a lot to make him raise his voice, and believe me when I say, with six children in the house, an assortment of foster kids in and out over the years, plus our friends, you would think he would blow once in awhile, but he kept his cool, no matter what.

I remember when Daddy taught each of us how to drive. We had one cardinal rule which was never to be broken. We had to wear our seat belt. We knew it was because he loved us and wanted us to be safe. We kids all secretly knew that dad would probably petition the church to add a number Eleven to the Ten Commandments: "Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Seat Belt".

Not to wear a seat belt in our family meant losing our driving privileges for two weeks. If we broke that rule, (we all learned this the hard way) he never said a word. When the guilty party drove home, parked, and got out of the car, Daddy met us at the front door, silently holding his hand out. We didn't have to ask, "Why?" We knew, he knew.

He didn't have to say a word. The rule had come from his heart. We knew, in that one moment, we had broken it and dropped the car keys into his outstretched hand.

I also remember a lesson he taught me when I was about ten, and 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 a ten year-old, that was at least the price of a new car. Well, I watched the expression on his face turn to firm resolve as he reached into his pocket for his wallet. He took some bills out and handed the money to her.

We put the groceries in the back of our station wagon and I climbed into the front seat for the drive home. On the way, I thought about how expensive it must be, having a big family like ours. 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 promised myself I would do a better job. I must have been uncharacteristically quiet, because right about then, daddy asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine, but then I asked, "Daddy, are we poor?"

He reached across the seat and patted me on my arm and said, "No, honey. We're not poor. We're not poor at all. We have everything we need. We just don't have a lot of money."

I've thought about that day so many times in the years since. Dad taught us so many important lessons about life and love.

He would tell us not to try and live life too seriously. When we do that, we miss the real beauty, which is in the small things. Puddles are there for splashing; mud is for making mud pies; mirrors are for making funny faces; and a hug ... well, a hug will fix just about anything that a bandaid won't cover up.

Love is measured in so many precious minutes. It's important we not miss any of them, because who knows, life might be metered in hours.

His message was so clear: everything that mattered, everything that was important, we already had. Love is what's important.

To My Dad, who passed away not long after this blog post was written:

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
remain forever "daddy".

I love you, Daddy.
You're still ten feet tall ...

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

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