One More Day

The other day, a Facebook friend asked a question that was something like, "If you could spend one more day with your dad, what would you do?" There were references to a day fishing, or spending time at a ballgame and, while I wouldn't turn my nose up at a day at the ballpark, I had something else in mind.

When you stand over the coffin and look at that face and those hands, you realize with certainty, that that person is gone. The body, before you for now, but the person, the personality, has gone silent and will never return.

What I miss about Dad is his personality and the bond my personality had with his. I miss hearing him pray. He said the same prayer at meals, with little variation, for all my adult life. We would smile at the familiar words and the familiar cadence as Dad thanked God for provisions and asked for strength. We would have sworn we'd never forget it, but today, all I can recall is the ending, "as Thy Words are to our spirits. In Jesus' Name we ask it. Amen." Short 'a' on the 'amen'.

I miss his laugh. Dad would have a funny story to tell and he'd start in, but many times, would get so tickled that by the end you could hardly understand him between the laughing and gasping.

I'm not sure what got us laughing in the picture on the right, but we both are clearly enjoying ourselves. And it's obvious there was no reason for me not to let go - I was wearing plastic pants.

Dad would spend time trying to teach me to play some baseball. Here, I crushed one of his offerings, at least that's the way I remember it. I always imagined that the white dot near the building was the ball. Now I just think it's a white dot. Dad's dad had been a coach, a teacher, and a principal and so I think my dad is just doing a little coaching right here. Granddad had older kids to work with, though.

Here's some guys Granddad worked with. Inmates at Algoa Farm in Jefferson City. In this photo from 1944, Granddad is standing in the back on the left. These young men had been incarcerated by the state of Missouri and sent to the prison farm at Algoa. Granddad was the boxing coach there for a time. In 1950, a guy who'd robbed a gas station in St. Louis showed up at Algoa and learned to box there, but there is no indication that Sonny Liston ever crossed paths with my granddad.

Back to the opening question: If I could have one more day with Granddad, I think I'd like to know about teaching boxing in prison. Wouldn't you?

Here we are staring into the sun, so Grandma must be behind the Brownie camera. Every photo that Grandma took featured us facing the sun. She liked her subjects well lit. So this is in the yard at Granddad's in Forsyth. The house had been built on a steep Ozarks slope and you parked down below and walked up a very interesting flight of stairs to the house. The steps were of varying heights and depths and had once been painted red, if memory serves.

Judging by the clothing, my guess is this one was taken the same day as the one above. Granddad has been replaced by my older sister. Apparently my legs have gone wobbly and Dad is trying to steady me. You notice in his left hand is some elixar of life that I'll probably knock back on the long car ride home. Thirteen long miles made simpler because the baby has a bottle.

I think this is a sweet picture. If an image could capture fatherhood, you could pick worse ones than this. I don't know where we were going, but I'd guess to church, based on how we're dressed. You have to keep the little man's shoes tied.

But now that I look again, you can see by the shadows that the sun was in the west when the picture was taken. So I don't know where we were going.

In the end, we helped Dad with various things as age and life and illness took their toll. For his sake you'd never ask, but even one of those days would be a joy for me to re-live.

Happy Father's Day.

1 comment:

Bob Wingate said...

Mike, I was on my way to my blog to leave a short comment on Father's Day, when I thought I'd check Central Standard for any new posts. I'm sure glad I did, I really enjoyed reading your memories of your Dad, my Uncle P.J.

I too remember his ready smile and great laugh, and those pictures are great (I have a copy of the one of the two of you in the kitchen where you grew up).

And that's an intriguing question...which day would I re-live with my Dad, if I could choose one, but only one? Like you say, If it could be done, any day would be a blessing. For the record, I thought of two or three possibilities. I was going to just post a few pictures on Poppy's Front Porch...but now I may also tackle that question too.

We both have good memories of our Dads...and that's a very good thing, I think.