I don’t think I’ve talked very much about my Dad, but he was quite a character. He had a great personality and always seemed to be very comfortable living in his own skin.
He was a special person–witty, strong, courageous, spontaneous, decisive, honest to a fault, considerate, inclusive, frugal, fair, and fun-loving. He was handy with his hands. He built our home–literally built it with his own two hands from the ground up. It sits where my Grandparents’ chicken house used to sit, where over a hundred chickens once lived.
I now own that home, and I remember years ago asking him about a light switch that didn’t seem to be connected to anything. I said, “What does it go to?” And he replied, “I don’t know. No telling what that twenty-five year old boy was thinking when he wired this part of the house.”
That light switch is in the oldest part of the house which he built when he was in his mid twenties. He also added that as far as he knew there was not a right angle in this entire section. Well, that part of the house is almost sixty years old, and it is solid as a rock.
Year after year I worked legislative sessions. Florida’s legislature only meets for sixty days during each spring. We work non-stop, live on adrenaline, and the sessions in my memory flow one into the other. But there is one that will be forever etched into my mind. It was the session of 2003, when I took a call and stepped out of a meeting over in the Hilton Hotel (now Doubletree) to talk to my Dad’s doctor.
The news was not good. The doctor told me that he believed that Dad had pancreatic cancer. One of the worst kinds. We talked procedures, chemo, radiation, surgeries, and strategy; but the prognosis was weeks to possibly months to live.
Still he was not sure, and there would have to be tests. As it turned out, lots of tests and several months before we were sure.
That session I moved from meeting to meeting and room to room in a deliberative manner. It was like I got an extra shot of adrenaline, and I was firing on all cylinders. I had energy like no get out. My memory of those days is as clear as a bell.
It occurs to me now that Dad had that Doctor call me. I remember asking him if Dad already knew about the cancer, and the doctor said yes.
For years after Dad died I thought the Doctor called me on his own, but now I feel certain Daddy wanted me to hear the whole thing because decisions had to be made. My Dad and I conferred off and on over the next months as to what procedures to do and not do. My Mom was already sick both physically and now mentally too, so that wasn’t an option. I became his sounding board. I learned how useful the Internet was under these circumstances.
I also remember during that legislative session moments when my mind wandered to my childhood–to memories of our times together when I was a child–memories of Mom, Dad, Ranny, Pam and later Linda Baby, the littlest sister who was born when I was almost 15.
These memories were different, though, because this time it was like I was looking back across a void that I never noticed before. Until then, I still felt like I was young. I was still his little girl, but all of a sudden I wasn’t anymore. Something shifted as if a new dimension opened up in my life. I guess it was about time, because I was 49.
I look back now and realize that anything that I was, anything that I did successfully in helping to take care of him was by his mentoring. If I was strong, it was because he had always been strong. If I was reliable, it was his reliability that set the tone. He was the best role model.
Today, he would have been 87. Happy Birthday, Dad!