The past two weeks have been a very difficult time for our family. Thankfully we were not alone. We had each other, friends, other relatives, and neighbors who kept us going. We also had some very caring people at Presbyterian Hospital that cared for daddy. It was also there we met Bro. Harry Smith who visited and prayed with the family many times. Do not ever underestimate the power of a pat on the back, a hug, a phone call, a text message, email, or a meal and even a place to sleep and rest and what all of these things did for us.
My dad was 90 years old. We celebrated his birthday on Nov. 16th with family and friends. We felt very strongly about celebrating this birthday. After all, it’s not everyday you turn 90 years young, but we knew he would not be a willing participant. Dad never wanted anyone to go to any trouble for him. I didn’t even talk to him about it. Instead Shelly told her PawPaw we wanted to do something for his birthday. Of course he said, “NO”; he didn’t need or want anything. He had us and that’s all he needed. He finally agreed that we could meet at McDonald’s in Ennis because that was between my house and his. Why McDonald’s you might ask? Well, he wouldn’t want to put anybody out with some place nice and he currently liked the food there. We decided on a time and it was all set. Except I guess we should have told him he was leaving at a later time because he thinks he has to leave very early to get places on time and you can never be late. Linda was waiting for my call to say it was ok to come since we had rented a room in town to have the party. It got to be later than the designated time and dad decided he just wouldn’t go if I didn’t call soon cause it was getting too late. We finally got the room situated and guests had arrived so I gave my sister the A-ok to leave. However, when they arrived my dad wouldn’t get out of the car because he was meeting me at McDonald’s and this was not McDonald’s. Finally, I get him to come inside and he is surprised and happy to see his family and friends, including some that he had not seen in years. After the party, he still had to have his McDonald’s.
I remember Dad always working and doing something around the house. He didn’t rest much except when it was time to go to bed. After I was married, I had to be careful about what I asked him about because he would be up and doing, trying to fix whatever was wrong. He was a fixer!! He never wanted anyone doing something for him but he always wanted to do for others. We always said he would give you the shirt off his back if it would help you.
He loved his family. Life wasn’t easy for him growing up and his dad had died when he was young. It used to be difficult for him to say, “I love you” but I can remember when this all changed. I was in high school and in a church choir. We were performing at the high school auditorium and the choir director asked me to say a few words after a song. I said “ok” but inside I was panicking. I thought what in the world can I say. I don’t want to talk in front of all these people. When it was my time to speak, I walked up and just started talking----no words written down and nothing really planned. I talked from my heart and said you know sometimes we are nice to our friends and others we encounter each day, but often we don’t treat the ones we are closest to the way we should. In fact, we aren’t always even nice to them. So I said, Mom and Dad, I want you to know I love you. Then I was done. It was over. I didn’t think much about it, but my dad came up with tears in his eyes and told me he loved me too. From then on, I became his angel with horns!! This simple action changed us. When talking to him on the phone or when leaving him after a visit, I would often say, “I love you” and then he would say “I love you too”. Over the course of his hospital visit, I heard my sister and his dear grandchildren tell him many times, “I love you.” “PawPaw, I love you.” We shared with him good stories and times.
A visit from Dad's nephew, Ricky and his wife Becky provided us with more laughter and joy in our pain and sorrow as he had us laughing until we had tears in our eyes. When Ricky was growing up, he spent many days and even weeks with our family and believe me when Ricky was at our house there was never a dull moment. My dad had a special relationship with Ricky and many of his nephews and nieces they viewed him as a father or grandfather figure.
Last week Dad was still telling us about the beginning of the Coca-cola Bottling Company in Dallas. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I heard this story. He found it hard to believe that Coke had started with only two employees and $5000. He was even telling one of his doctors this story. He worked 43 years for them. He loved his job. He loved working and he was good at what he did. Days missed at work were few and he was a dedicated worker and worked tirelessly. As a young child, I can remember him winning contests for selling or leasing Coke machines to businesses. His job was not an easy one. He delivered cases of Coke all over the Dallas area and he did so with a smile on his face and joy in his heart. Dad epitomized proper customer service. His smile and baby blue eyes would melt your heart. He was the company’s #1 fan.
Dad’s sometimes rough exterior hid a heart of gold. Despite his heart of gold, he could be a stubborn old goat. In fact on his 80th birthday cake, I put Happy 80th birthday you old goat. When he saw it, he smiled and laughed.
When dad wanted something done he wanted it done then and my sweet sister often dealt with his impatience and stubbornness. Dad was not a complainer. He could feel bad and never tell you. We often would have to go by the way he looked or sometimes his actions because we all know our actions speak louder than words. He never wanted us to buy him anything. He had all he needed--a family that loved him. It was okay for him to do for us though. Dad delighted in his family and often proudly told stories about them. We always said he never met a stranger. Dad would talk to anybody that would listen and as my mama would often say, “He could talk the hind legs off a billy goat.”
I remember many vacations with Dad to visit family. One thing about Dad is he didn’t linger long in one place. Once he got there and visited, he was ready to get back to his home, his safe haven, because there was always work to be done. I can remember one vacation going to Indiana to visit one of mom’s cousins. We went through eight states in 4 days. We didn’t stop and do anything anywhere. After all, our trip was to visit the relatives. Once we did that, the mission was accomplished and it was time to go back home. I remember on our final night, momma begging him to please let us stop at a motel with a swimming pool so I could swim.
However, Dad became a push over with his grandkids and great grandkids. He watched them as they grew and he was able to relax more. Many a night was spent at Paw Paw’s and Nana’s house and according to them, “The kids could do no wrong” Dad loved to give pony rides to Sarah and Jordan and he played many a game of Sorry and Wheel of Fortune with them. Sarah was Vanna White and I don’t know, but maybe Jordan was Pat Sajak. They were also always playing “Hide and seek” and mom and dad would delight in scaring them before they were found by yelling, “Boo”. Sometimes they would just hide around a corner and scare us as we walked by.
Shelly, Chad, and Brandon would ride the bus to their Nana and Paw Paw’s house after school and their Nana always had a meal prepared for them. Many times I think they had pinto beans which was always a family favorite. No one has ever cooked pinto beans as good as my mom. After dinner there would always be a dessert and it was then the prankster came out in their PawPaw. He would always hide their bowls of ice cream when they stepped away from the table. Shelly remembers him singing “I scream, you scream we all scream for ice cream”. Keith and I remember making homemade peppermint ice cream with an old hand turned ice cream freezer. I got tired of turning that crank, but daddy would always finish it up as it became more difficult to turn. For some reason, PawPaw would have Keith sit on the ice cream freezer and Keith remembers freezing his backside off sitting there.
Even the very youngest great grandchild, Landon, was a bit of a prankster like his pawpaw. When his Paw Paw would go to the kitchen to eat, Landon would take his favorite chair and tell his papa, “I’m getting your chair PawPaw!” When PawPaw was finished eating he would say, “You better get out of chair or I’ll get the fly swatter!”
PawPaw would make his grandkids laugh when he would say, “I bet I can do something you can’t do!” and they would say, “What pawpaw?” Then he would take out his teeth and say can you do this? Then he would ask, “Will you hold these for me?”
Michael, Jordan, Sarah, and I went on several great vacations with Mama and Daddy. One destination we have wonderful memories of is to Branson, MI where we visited Silver Dollar City and stayed at a motel that had a water slide. Good times. Fun times.
I take joy in telling these stories because these are memories we hold in our hearts and this is what our daddy and Paw Paw would have wanted us to do. He is at peace and he would say to us, “Don’t cry for me. I’m with your mama, your Nana and I’m okay and you should be too.” We will forever remember our good times with our sweet daddy and PawPaw and the lessons on living he taught us.