When I was growing up, this was just another day, not really special, but kind of. We would recognize Dads at our church on Sunday, but I did not realize just how special of a day it was until I lost my father.
My Dad would always go to his father’s house and just spend time with him on Father’s Day. I thought that was so boring. They usually did not do anything but sit and talk. Our family celebrated the birthdays, and special days like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These holidays were always a full family event where Aunt Velma and her family and ours would get together with my grandparents, have a meal and spend the day together. Father’s Day was more of a personal note, just a time we would go and spend with PaPa. When Granddaddy passed away in 1977, it was just me and my Dad, but I still made it a point to go and spend a little time with him on Father’s Day. I did not realize just how important that time would mean until years later.
My Dad was a simple man. Everything he did, he did for his family.. that was his enjoyment. When I was 12 years old, he offered to let me work for him after school and during the summer at his lumber yard. Since I always had to earn whatever money I had, this was something I eagerly agreed to. I would ride with him sometimes when he layed off new home sites and my job was to hold the scale rod so he could get measurements from his survey instrument, or to hold a stake so he could drive it into the ground with a sledge hammer. During the summer, if I was not helping prime tobacco with our neighbors, I would work at the Building Supply and stack lumber from our sawmill so it could be air dried and then planned into lumber for the houses we built. My wages were 30 cents an hour. I remember thinking that was a lot of hard work for such little pay, but in hindsight, a young kid like me could not be too much help, me and my cousin Eddie worked hard, but we also goofed off a lot too. My Dad never said anything. I wondered why, unless the work we did was really great… but it was not. Years later I realized that Daddy just wanted to be able to spend time with me. He seemed to work all the time, leaving home at 6:30 and coming back after 7… he worked 7 days a week and that was what was needed back then to keep a family going. I just did not realize how much my Dad really wanted to be with me.
Sometimes we would go fishing on Sunday afternoons after Church… that was a special time for me and my Dad. I remember him making a wooden boat in the barn one year so we could paddle down the river like he had done in his youth. Daddy spent many hours sanding, and putting in solid brass screws into a flat bottom “Jon” boat that he planned to take down Deep River. When it was finally finished, and had several coats of varnish applied, we were ready. I caught up a mess or worms from around the barn and Daddy fixed a picnic lunch.. (Actually my mother made the sandwiches, but it was Daddy’s idea). We went down to the wildlife landing off Hwy 64 and put in at the Sandy Creek landing. Once we paddled down into the river, where we were met with sheets of gooey, dark brown dye floats. The river was a patchwork of goo. The cotton mill in Franklinville used to dump their waste into the river before it was regulated. The paddles that Daddy had hand carved became stained with dye, and it was obvious that even if we caught some fish, we could not eat them because of the pollution. I was disappointed, but my Dad lost a chance to spend time with his son. Looking back, at all the things my Dad did for me over the years, I realize now that most were just opportunities for him to spend time with me. What I would give to have another day with my Dad… just an hour. Just time to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. The older we get, the more I realize just how precious just spending time with someone can be.
Daddy suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease the last couple years he was alive. I tried to spend as much time with him as I could because I realized his days were numbered. Every day I would make an effort to see him and sit and talk, even if just for a little while. Sometimes he had difficulty understanding, but at other times, he would remember the times we had together and reflect. The last thing my Dad said to me was not spoken words. He looked at me and squeezed my hand as he lay in the Hospice bed. “It’s OK Daddy, I will take care of momma… I love you,” I said. And then my Dad was gone. He died peacefully, knowing that he would soon be in the presence of Christ. I was left still wanting to say so many things to him… I was not ready to let him go. I still had fishing trips I hoped to take.
On Father’s Day, I remember the pain of losing my father and the emptiness I felt afterward. I guess that is why Father’s Day is so special to me. I remember my Dad, but most of all, I remember how much my Dad enjoyed just being around and spending time with me.
I am thankful for all the memories of my Father, and regret that I did not make time for more.