I'm going to see my Daddy this weekend. He's a little older now than when this article was written - he's the cute highway patrolman standing on the left. My sister Brenda found this a few months ago in some of our grandmother's things.
By the time I was born, he had left the highway patrol to become a Pasadena policeman, and then left that to work at a chemical plant on the Houston Ship Channel. Policeman back then had to work two or three side jobs to make enough to support a family of five with one on the way. He could make that much and more just working at a chemical plant, plus better benefits and a bowling league.
He has always been that way - doing whatever it takes to care for his family. When he met my mother, she was working as a night waitress to support herself and her young son from her first marriage. Daddy adopted her son, my oldest brother Buster. Even though Buster's birth father came around every once in a while, to Buster, my Daddy was his "real" daddy. Even years later, after Buster was a quadriplegic and Mama and Daddy were divorced (they remarried after just four years apart), we would take Buster to Daddy's apartment to visit. It was pretty comical watching Daddy and my brother-in-law trying to carry Buster's six-foot limp body up the stairs.
Just a few of the other magnificent things Daddy did include...
...when Brenda was about six, she dislocated her hip and had to be in a body cast for months. Daddy homeschooled her before homeschooling was "in."
...he coached my brother Donnie's baseball team and helped start the Deepwater Optimist Club that supported the baseball leagues.
...he let me tag along on errands around town with him. My favorites were the bank where he'd give me pennies to throw in the fountain, and Sears where my first stop was always the snack bar in the middle and I had a hard time deciding between warm, roasted cashews, or chocolate malted balls that were the best I've ever eaten.
...he tried to teach me how to bowl and how to play golf, but I was too stubborn to listen and learn. He persevered in teaching me how to drive, bless his heart. I wasn't a nice student. Even though I gave up trying to learn how to play, I'd go with him to the golf course just to walk around and see the squirrels. He would also drive me and my friends all over Houston to watch our high school basketball games. He took us to the movies (most memorable was "Gone With the Wind" after which Donna threw up buttered popcorn and we all stuck our heads out of the windows of the old Chevrolet to avoid the smell.)
...he taught me how to win at ping-pong.
...when I wrecked my brand new car at the end of my senior year of high school (by running into the end of a parked truck!), he never even raised his voice with me, which made me feel even more sorry and ashamed.
...when I tossed aside my scholarship in chemical engineering by dropping out of college and going to work as a welder's helper and then a chemical plant operator, like him, he never voiced disappointment. That's one of the reasons that even to this day I'm taking classes, trying to get my degree. I have to make it up to him. I'm not sure if he'll live long enough to see me graduate, but he knows I haven't given up. At least he got to watch my oldest son walk across the stage to receive his diploma. It's not that I have to do anything to make Mama or Daddy proud. I can see in their eyes when they look at me that all I have to do is exist to make them happy - not just me, but all of us. They would brag about the way I walk or breathe. That's the kind of parents they are. And it feels good.
But that's also why I feel the need to finish what I started, to do what he expected me to do years ago. I know I don't have to do it for him to love me.
I'm grateful I still have my Daddy. I wish I had more than a day to spend with him right now, to just hang out and watch TV. This will be a quick trip to Houston and back in one day, but I don't want to pass up the chance to tell him on Father's day to his face what a wonderful father - Daddy - he is.