Things My Father Said

I lost my father shortly after I gained my youngest son. Ian will be nine this August. From time to time he asks, "Daddy, who is your daddy?" The question always leaves me a little cold as I try to explain just who my daddy is. It is tough to capture the legacy of a man who taught me so much in just a few short sentences.

As I age, I have learned that life changes you, but at your core you have been who you are for some time.

The journey is on going. The scenery changes. The characters change. The destination may even change, but where we come from is the one constant.

A friend of mine who's father passed away a couple of years ago and I had the chance to reminisce a bit about our fathers and the life's lessons learned under their direction.

We had both reached a similar conclusion in the time without them as a mentor.

Perhaps the greatest loss a son suffers with the passing of his father is a resource and guide to navigate life's highway.

It is a difficult chore to learn to depend on one's own understanding when a wealth of wisdom about how the world works is suddenly gone.

Father's Day is often difficult for me.

It is an annual reminder of what I have lost, but at the same time it affords me some time to recount many of the things my father offered me during our time together.

"If you are the only person who thinks you are the best, then you haven't accomplished anything."

Daddy offered that to me the night I graduated high school.

I did not fully appreciate what he was trying to say until I was much older and had joined the work force.

I also learned in time that people who let others praise them are generally more respected.

"Naw, we're not going to be that kind of person."

My dad regularly said "We" when ever he wanted me to do something or act a certain way.

I told him once that I had a date coming up with a girl I had recently met.

He quickly asked me about another young lady I had been dating and I told him it was nothing serious.

He was curious if she felt it was serious and then went on to inform me that "We" date one girl at a time and if we didn't want to date her any longer then we tell her before we start dating someone else.

"We", I, got the point.

"Take care of each other."

My daddy was always big on family. Nothing was more important than that to him.

He had a dozen brothers and sisters, so there was always somewhere to go and something to celebrate.

Daddy went.

During the receiving line at our wedding, my daddy came through and shook my hand. I reached out to hug him, because we had come so far.

That moment was captured by a photographer. It is one of my favorite pictures.

His advice to my new bride and me was to always put each other first and to take care of each other.

He told me later on that the number one reason people get divorced is because they fail to change.

He explained that people like to say that their mate changed, but in the end we have to change because we are transitioning from a life of me to a life of we.

"Just get a grip, son!"

My daddy believed in hard work. It didn't matter if it was office work, house work or yard work.

If there was work to be done, he was going to be involved and so were we.

Daddy grew up on a dairy farm on Augusta Road in Ellisville, Mississippi.

They milked cows before school and did everything else that needed to be done after school.

He grew up working and he found pleasure in his work.

I cannot even begin to recount how many stories he told me where his actions as an adult were motivated by what was best for the American taxpayer.

He worked for the federal government for 33 years and he worked all 33.

If I ever called him about something that wasn't going as I expected or as I wanted, he would tell me to get a grip and just keep working hard.

Things always seemed to have a way of working out when I followed that advice.

"I am not sure if that's good advice or not."

When my father had fallen ill, he decided not to refill one of his medications.

He had been encouraged to refill it and take it, but he didn't want to.

We had recently found out that we were expecting Ian and he decided to come on his schedule rather than mom and dad's.

The family made the drive to Canton to visit and share the good news with my dad and our family there.

Someone felt that my wife, Dana, a registered nurse could talk daddy into taking his medication.

As requested, Dana did as requested, but things didn't go quite as planned.

Daddy answered, "Well, I am not sure if following the advice of an OBGYN nurse who couldn't avoid getting pregnant is the right thing for me to do."

It was good natured, but it was sharp. That was my daddy in a nutshell.

It still makes me laugh to think about that.

"I love you."

My dad was a very loving person, but he wasn't always real vocal about his feelings.

You always knew were you stood with daddy even if he didn't tell you.

You didn't have to.

I can only remember my dad telling me he loved me on two occasions.

I had a hard time growing up once I got on my own and I did some things I regret.

I was arrested and wound up in drug rehab.

I didn't go to rehab to save the family name, I went to rehab because I was an alcoholic and a drug addict.

Not long after I was in treatment, I got a call from my father.

I had been dreading the call since everything went wild.

I was not afraid of what he would say, I was just so ashamed for disappointing him.

I was so torn apart inside for what I had done to him and the disgrace I had brought on his name.

There I was with my world falling apart and my daddy told me that he loved me anyway.

I know it couldn't have been the first time that he told me he loved me, but it is the first once I can recall.

It meant the world to me then and it means the world to me know.

Just typing that takes my breath away and I have to stop for a minute to collect myself.

I didn't deserve his love, but he offered it anyway, because he knew his son was in trouble and needed him.

As I married and began a family of my own, my daddy became my best friend.

I still needed him as a resource and someone to help me along the path as I became a man.

I learned how important my dad was to a lot of people.

Then Governor Haley Barbour found out daddy was sick and he sent him a letter of support.

Jack Cristil offered get well wishes to my dad during the Mississippi State/Florida basketball game that year.

As a result, an old friend from daddy's past was able to reconnect with him.

I told you I remember my daddy telling me he loved me twice.

Between my daddy and his wife, Dolores, there are six children.

We don't get caught up on halves and steps, we're just brothers and sisters and we love each other.

My family tree may have been pruned a couple of times, but we have good roots.

As daddy's days drew to a close, we finally had all six of us in the room with him for the first time.

He had not spoken in days, but he was able to muster up enough strength to say "I love all of y'all".

Those were his final words to us. He never spoke again, but what else was there to say?

Before my daddy passed away, I was able to bring him a picture of Ian, his grandson.

He held the picture for a long time and he just studied Ian's face.

They never got to meet and that is something that stays with me.

Ian never got to know "Papa Fred" and that makes me sad.

I know that the seeds my father sowed in me still grow and my hope is that Ian gets to know my father through me and all of the lessons he taught me.

I am doing my part to hand them down to the next generation.

I catch myself all of the time saying things my father said to me.

I know that as long as I live and share his legacy with my children who bear his last name that his memory lives on.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

I miss you every single day.

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