I wrote this yesterday, got interrupted, and forgot to post it.
Daddy (I know…I’m 66 years old and still call him Daddy) died 30 years ago. He was my rock–the buffer between my mom and me. I was the middle child–don’t roll your eyes–the stories about middle child syndrome are true! Up until the time I was in 3rd grade, my dad worked on the old Sinclair pipeline. Long days and nights and little time at home. He didn’t know the way I was treated by my mom. When he started his own business and had somewhat normal work hours, he saw how I was withdrawn and stayed out of my mom’s way. I was unhappy, afraid and I acted out in school–spending most of my 2nd grade standing in the hall after being paddled because I couldn’t sit still or keep quiet. It should tell you something that I preferred being paddled and standing in the hall to the things my mother did to me. When she said she wished she never had me (which was often), I would cry and tell her I didn’t ask to be born. In the summer I would leave the house in the morning and never return until 8 or 9 in the evening. I would often hide in the woods or under our neighbors’ lilac bush that formed a perfect shelter.
Once my dad realized the situation, he began to include me in the things he was doing. I spent most of my time in the basement and garage helping him work on things. I always had wood to pound nails into, and I made a lot of little wooden sail boats. As I got older, he taught me things like replacing a bad light switch. I learned to play the flute in the school music program, and he bought me a sterling silver flute (I still have it). That was not a popular thing with my mom. Over the years, he always found special ways to make up for the treatment from my mom and sisters. The worst explosion was when he bought a boat so we could go water skiing. I had gone with some friends and had so much fun. He saw it as a way to get me out of the house–something we could do and take my friends along. How I loved that boat!!! It was escape. Of course, my sisters benefited from that boat, too. But, it was my boat and I took it with me when I got married quite a few years later. That went over like a lead balloon with my sisters. But we lived near a large lake, and it was wonderful to go out into the lake and just sit and enjoy the quiet.
So, on the one hand, I had the middle child issues with my mom and sisters, but not with my dad. He always made me feel wanted. When he died unexpectedly all those years ago, I knew he died in self-defense. My mom was not only not not nice to me–she was horrible to him. The last time I saw him was Thanksgiving in 1987. My mom was yelling at him for something. He usually just walked away. This time he turned around and said, “I must have done something right once.” Then he walked away. Those words are indelibly etched in my brain. He died the next February, and the first thing I thought was that he died in self-defense. I swear he wished himself to die. He was never sick. He had just had a physical–no heart problems, no high cholesterol, nothing! He just got up one Sunday, got dressed for church, laid down on the couch and died. He told their neighbor and good friend the day before that he was ready, and that he was right with God. He willed himself to die. He couldn’t take it any longer. And I wasn’t there to help pound nails into boards.
A few weeks before he died, my dad caught a 14-pound bass. Fishing was his life, and his escape. He took the bass to a taxidermist be mounted. It didn’t get done until after he died. That fish has hung in every kitchen I have had since. And it gave me the strength to finally separate myself from my mom and sisters and make a great life for me and my son. I’ve lived a good life and I have much to be grateful for.
So, today’s grateful is that I had my dad for the years I had, and that I have that fish to remind me every day of the Daddy that I miss. My memories of him are so clear. And I can still hear him telling me that everything will be OK. He was with me when I found out I had cancer, and he was with me through chemotherapy and radiation. His voice kept telling me it would be OK. And the fish looks out for me and constantly reminds me that I have value and someone who loved me once.
You are probably tired of reading this, but I’m thankful that you did, if you did… It wasn’t easy to write–lots of tears. But I made it through.