Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Happy Birthday dad

My dad would have celebrated his 94 birthday today. Throat cancer got the best of him in May of 86 at the age of 63. He inhaled the gas and fumes released by the arc welders he used in his work. I'm sure that contributed, but I bet moonshine whiskey and Camel cigarettes didn't help. 

The last year or so of his life, he turned in to a scarecrow of a man. He spent most of his time sitting in the living room recliner looking out the window at something in the distance. Something no one else could see. He scribbled notes on a tiny wire-bound notebook he kept in his shirt pocket. He never offered to share his words, and I never asked. 

When he died, I found the notebook in a footlocker beside his bed where he kept things. There were pictures, souvenirs, and other mementos. The pages in his notebook were scratched with a pencil. He wrote about dying. He wondered about heaven and hell. He wasn't looking forward to being put to rest "in that cold, cold ground." It was one of the saddest things I ever read.

But that's not how I like to remember my dad. He was at home on the Warrior River. We had a Jon boat for as long as I can remember. He knew when and where to look for the crappy, bream, and white-bellied catfish as big as your leg. 

He loved sleeping under the stars on the riverbank while listening to a serenade of crickets and frogs. When the soft crackle and the blue flames of the campfire faded into warm pulsing embers late at night is when he felt most alive. He was a quiet man by nature, but I learned a lot about his dreams when we were camping. 

Our family didn't have a lot when we were growing up, but it wasn't because my dad was lazy. He didn't finish grammar school, but that did not keep him from working hard. Looking back, I think we had all we needed. I appreciate all the sacrifices he made for me and my siblings.

Happy Birthday, dad. I hope the fish are biting where ever you are.


15 comments:

  1. This was a good read. Nice tribute of course. I can only imagine the tremors in your mind as you read the little tablet.
    I have known a couple guys with that far off look, I too have often wondered, but at least you had some written thoughts. I am sorry for anyone who did not have a 'real dad'.

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  2. Thanks for this heartfelt tribute to your dad. He reminds me a lot of my own dad who passed nine years ago. Both men seemed to have a quiet dignity and strong morality and work ethic.

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  3. Happy birthday to your Dad and you wrote a very touching and heartfelt tribute to him. It had to be very hard to read his sad words but I'm wondering if he really needed to write his fears and thoughts out to get it clear in his mind about what was to come. As a parent we always want to appear strong and in control of things to our kids...even the grownup ones but fears and doubts are there. You were able to peak into his heart and soul and get a rare glimpse of his feelings at that time. You have wonderful memories of a good Dad. A real blessing to be sure.

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  4. My pops died around the same age, too short, but we were lucky to have them for that long. No one teaches you more about life than a dad.

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  5. Nice tribute to your Dad Rick, wonderful memories of him on the riverbank by the campfire.

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  6. Great tribute to your father, Rick. I love that photo, you have posted it before; I look at it closely and think about the old adage: a picture is worth a thousand words.

    Alphie

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  7. A loving remembrance of your father. I recognized someone I once knew.

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  8. A very, very happy birthday to your father. I hope that the 'big ones no longer get away'.

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  9. Awe Rick this was so sweet... your dad sounds like he was a man with a big heart who took the best care of his family xox

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  10. You have some wonderful memories and did a great tribute to your dad. Those we love remain close in our hearts always.

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  11. A beautiful tribute to your dad Rick. I think Yaya said what I would have said.
    Happy Birthday to your dad.

    You were a cute little cowboy in those days.
    Hugs, Julia

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  12. You made me think about my own dad--& cry!!

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  13. Nice tribute to your dad Rick. He was a nice looking guy.

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  14. That part about the notebook nearly did me in. Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart today.

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  15. Great tribute post to your Dad. The notebook story is sad but I bet you cherish those words thought they are erie. I agree with Jean, your dad was handsome. And 63 was way too young.
    Lisa

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