12 July, 2009

Daddy's Girl

I’d always been a Daddy’s girl. I’m the oldest of three, with two younger brothers.They both tower over me (as it seems I inherited the family short gene), so I can’t ever properly call them ‘little’ brothers.My parents were married until I was 22, a parent myself at the time, in an already unhappy marriage.I was absolutely devastated that they divorced and for a long time, blamed both of them.

While my childhood seemed idyllic, and truth be told, it was a damned good childhood by most standards, it still suffered from dysfunctionality as much as the next family.But, both parents worked, we lived in a country club (albeit, not a gated community type one), and had free run of the neighborhood and the country club clubhouse.Our parents were involved, with Daddy coaching all the sports teams (football and softball), and mom was like the uber room mom and team mom.They knew all the teachers and Daddy was on the school board.

I so couldn’t EVER get away with anything. I could sneeze funny and they’d know about it before I got home that night.

Anyway, I’ve always been close to daddy.I love my mother, but I’m more like my father and so she and I don’t always see eye to eye.When I got pregnant at 19, with my oldest, he was the calm, supportive voice that encouraged me that all would be okay.He also gave my then boyfriend/now ex-husband a tongue lashing that even to this day the ex won’t tell me about.I’ve always been secretly proud of that.

Daddy was a cowboy, in more ways than one.He was Citadel cadet, for a brief spell, before losing his cool and punching an upper classmen during hell week.Mom still has his sword.He was in the rodeo, when I was an infant and a toddler, riding bulls, and later, as one of those clowns that distracts the bulls when a rider is bucked off.He went to school full time when I was in early elementary years, and can remember the drive between the tiny small town where we lived to the nearest University town, and I’d sometimes sit in class with him.Often, he was as old as, if not older than the professor.Later in life, he sat on the Board of Directors for the junior college he first graduated from.

He was a stock broker and financial analyst back when ‘Wall Street’ was hip, and at the same time, he taught me how to be an all-star softball catcher, and deliver a speech when running for class president.

I won that election.

When I chose to be a cheerleader, no one could have been more proud, attending every single game, basketball or football.When I was on the homecoming court in high school, I could feel the pride emanating from him as he escorted me on the field.

He could quote literary giants from any era. My love of books, of literature came from him. He opened new worlds for me, exposing me to everything he could. Encouraged me to apply to any university I wanted to.Many I didn’t get into, but many that I’d thought it wouldn’t be possible for me to get accepted to, I did. He encouraged me to read history as I would one day grow to love it, even though I disdained it at the time.He swore he had taken part in the Boer Wars in Australia… could give you minute details about it.And he’s right, I love history now.

My love of amateur wrestling was encouraged by him.He was fast friends with many Olympic level athletes at the time, many of whom are now college coaches.When I started traveling to officiate tournaments, he’d always make sure I had all I needed. He taught me about the importance of volunteerism, by showing me how much time and effort he put into growing amateur wrestling in Georgia, as well as by the volunteering he did for political causes. I can’t tell you how many yard signs I’ve stapled and delivered and hammered into the ground.When, in high school, I was named Girl of the Year for the Boys and Girls club, Daddy, who was on their Board of Directors, presented me with the award. Whenever I travel in circles where Daddy used to roam, I always get questions about him.

He sent me flowers on my first mother’s day, and gleefully watched my children grow. I see his spirit so much in my rockstar princess. He didn’t live long enough to see any of them wrestle, and i can only hope he’s watching them kick ass from the summerland.

I don’t want to over glorify Daddy.He was painfully human.He drank too much (two hot toddy’s every night, without fail. First mixed drink I ever learned to make).He was less than faithful to my mother. He was difficult and ornery and not the easiest person to know.He was hard on us, expected a lot of discipline. I graduated with honors in the top of my high school class, and got a ‘you could have been valedictorian if you had worked harder.’ But, being on the school board, he was there, and gave me my diploma with the biggest hug. He was very hard on my brothers, raising them as strong southern gentlemen.Heh, most of it took.

But the bitch of it was, he was right.He was always right.

I’m writing this because he’s heavy on my mind today.He passed away nearly 7 years ago. He had cardiomyopathy and needed a heart transplant.Never one to enjoy doctors and hospitals and medications, shunning them at every opportunity, he refused the transplant.He lived 3 years, exactly how he wanted to live.He worked, he ran, he had a girlfriend.He LIVED even though he knew, more succinctly than most that death was waiting for him at any moment.He passed in his sleep, Thanksgiving weekend, alone (I’ve always regretted that).He laid down on the couch to watch football and never woke up.

He was 47.

My mother and brothers were distraught and spent the following week drugged out on Valium.I planned his funeral.He was always very spiritual, but not religious at all.We had his service in the chapel of the family preferred funeral home in South Ga.He wanted bagpipes as his service, but I couldn’t scare any up fast enough.He always said that he wanted a party when he died, and we did our best to honor that.I was shocked, and shaken, when arriving at the funeral home for the wake, there was a throng of people… there was no more room inside the building, and people were milling around outside.Just the site of all those people was enough to bring me to tears.Family I hadn’t seen in years, coworkers from decades ago.Women that he coached when they were young girls on my softball teams, men that he’d coached as boys on my brothers’ football teams, wrestlers, from all over the state… all there to say goodbye to this fantastically complex man who I was honored to be able to call ‘Daddy’.

He’s still with me from time to time, popping in for a visit every now and again, I can feel his energy as it comes into the room, and when it does, I can almost see his smile, hear his laugh, smell the smell of him. It’s a balm to my weary soul when he’s around.

As a pagan, I, and many, many others, belief that our souls, before we come back to earth as an infant again, we choose our families, we choose who are going to be born to, for a variety of reasons that only that soul knows.I realize more and more every day why I chose to be born to my wonderful parents. I realize the richness of life that knowing my father has afforded me.I continue to learn so many lessons from him, in how he lived, how he died, and how he loved.

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