Today, my Daddy would have celebrated his 81st birthday. He passed away on May 16, 1998 after spending 3 months in the hospital. He received a round of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for colon cancer that had spread to his brain. He was a vital, healthy man and was hardly ever sick a day in his life. He never smoked or drank, and was always very health conscience and careful with his diet. The only way we knew there was anything remotely wrong with him was that he seemed to be off-balance and couldn’t sit still. It was very hard to see this once strong man laying in a hospital bed, so thin, that he no longer resembled his former self. He was unaware of all that was around him, except for my mother. She stayed with him 24 hours a day in the hospital and rarely took breaks. They truly loved each other and had been married for almost 45 years. They were sweethearts until the very end.
Several years ago, I created a website in his memory. My memories of him are of a man who loved God, his family, and his country. He served in the Navy and worked civil service for the DoD for many years. He loved the outdoors, bike riding, lifting weights and jogging. I remember a couple of summers where he planted two small gardens. I had to pick the vegetables and I hated every minute of it. Especially collard greens. They were just nasty to me, and I didn’t like to smell them cooking, and I didn’t like to eat them. But Daddy loved them, and he loved the way Mama cooked them.
Daddy grew up in a very large family. He was one of 13 children and he always visited with his extended family members, often visiting with his Mama. I was an only child, and Daddy showered me with his love. There are numerous pictures and videos he took of me when I was younger. He taught me how to shoot a bow & arrow, and tried to teach me how to shoot a basketball (never did manage that one). He tried to interest me in jogging and biking, but those didn’t work for me . I’m more my mother’s child, artistic and creative, instead of outdoorsy and tomboyish. I remember he tried to teach me once how to change the oil in my car. That didn’t take either. I did not inherit his “mechanics” smarts. The only thing he never tried to teach me was to cut the grass. He was meticulous about the yard and always kept it looking nice.
Even though Daddy only had a 3rd grade education and grew up on a farm in the 30′s, he was a very smart man. He didn’t sound country, or red neck. He was always self-confident and full of knowledge about many things. He loved to take things apart and see if he could put them back together again, like TV’s, or transmissions. He studied automobile manuals, and visited with mechanics to learn how cars worked and how to take care of them. He built our home, room by room, over a period of 15 years. I think after he left the Navy, he went into the Army, completed his GED, and started studying anything that he could. He eventually retired from the DoD after 35 years of civil service, at the 2nd highest level of civil service. After he retired, he worked construction with one of his buddies, usually remodelling houses, or constructing add-ons, like garages and carports.
He was a man with faith in God, and loved being a Christian. He studied the Bible, and was a believer in prayer. He had many stories of his revelations of God. I used to sit and listen to him for hours talking to his friends about God and the Bible. It was his favorite subject. He loved to sing gospel songs and taught himself to play the guitar. I think that was his way of relaxing, just to sit down and strum a little. He did teach me one time to play. I did like to do that, but it really hurt my fingers, so I didn’t keep it up. I preferred playing the piano instead.
He loved to travel. He visited often with friends he knew in Indiana. We were always going up to Helen, GA or up in in the Smoky Mountains—Gatlinburg and Cherokee were some of our favorites. He took my mother to Florida, Charleston, and Savannah. One year they trekked all the way to the West… Arizona and New Mexico. I think he liked the look of the old West and the cowboy way. He always enjoyed watching John Wayne movies and thought he was the ultimate cowboy. Daddy was always interested in how things were made, or how things were done. He died just when the internet world was just beginning. He knew about computers but didn’t have one. I think he would have been very interested in the internet and would have thought it was a great research tool, but would have believed that it was an instrument of the devil too.
There were so many things of him that I didn’t inherit… his blonde hair, his blue eyes, his ability to focus and study, his love of the outdoors. But I do hope that I have inherited his strength of character, his self-confidence and assurance of his place in life. I don’t know if he would have been proud of the person that I have turned out to be, but I do know that he loved me and gave me his blessing at the end.
He was a good Granddaddy to my son, who was about 10 years old when Daddy passed away. Mama & Daddy would pick Ted up and take him out for a hamburger at McDonald’s or somewhere. Daddy always asked Ted if he was going to eat his french fries, and Ted would say no. Daddy would then promptly eat up the fries. After Daddy died, Ted asked who was going to eat his fries now. Granddaddy made the little red wagon seen in the picture below. It says “The Little Red Wagon Granddaddy made for me”.
We celebrated Daddy’s 70th birthday while he was in the hospital. He wasn’t aware of it at all. I brought a cake and we shared it with the staff and other patient’s visitors, and Daddy’s visitors. We still thought he was going to wake up and be with us longer. Sadly, he passed away 2 weeks later.
homemade ice cream – peach & strawberry (yum)
sweaty hugs after his work outs
snuggles inside his coat when it was cold
The Old Rugged Cross sung in his voice
him saying “It’s a beautiful day for a drive” when I would leave to drive back to Florida
his rolled up dungarees and pull over shirts
his laughter when I got stuck at the top of a hill while learning to drive a stick shift
his green cereal bowl
his head bowed over his Bible
the tilt of his head above a crowd
his blue comet and his buick skylark and his green truck
his love for his close friends
his red workout bench & weights
his love for eating good food
the callouses on his hands
his love for my Mama
I miss him with all my heart. I only wish that he could be here to love his granddaughter. Everybody that sees her and that knew my Daddy, calls her “little Joe”. I think she has inherited his genes, and his mannerisms. She is very personable and loves to learn, just like her Granddaddy.
Happy Birthday, Daddy, I love you.
Me & Daddy, I’m probably about 3 or 4 years old
Me & Daddy, I’m about 5 years old
Current Mood: Sad