My Father’s Day letter to you

Published 11:49 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

He taught me how to put gas in my car and how to check the oil to see if it was low. One hot Sunday afternoon, he made me change the tire on my car—over and over. And that’s when you had to use a tire iron and tighten the lugnuts yourself.

After all, we didn’t have OnStar and AAA 24-hour emergency services, much less cell phones if you got caught with a flat while out at night.

You see, it wasn’t just the fact that he was teaching me how to take care of myself; it was the fact that he loved me enough to take the time to do it because he knew he wouldn’t always be around to do it for me.

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He even taught me how to two-step. There I was, 22 years old, whirling around and around the dance floor with my daddy trying to keep up with him, trying to count the steps in my head over and over.

“If your Mama knew what we were doing right now, she’d have a fit,” he told me, laughing, his eyes twinkling. After all, we were in an “adult” establishment. The fact that we were both “legal” was null and void as far as my mama was concerned.

That only happened one time—and I still remember it to this day.

When my beloved cat Tiger got hit by a car, it was Daddy who wrapped him in a towel, put him in a box and waited until I got home from band practice to tell me what had happened. He knew how much I loved that cat. The whole front of my shirt was soaked with tears as I stood quietly by and watched Daddy dig Tiger’s grave underneath the big Magnolia tree in our backyard.

What I didn’t know until years later was what he said to Mama after he told me about Tiger.

“Lord, I didn’t want to do that…..that’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

How could a man who had served his country during World War II and had seen horrible, disturbing things even compare the two?

Because I was his child, and he was my father.

When his oldest son, Van, died suddenly at the age of 32, Daddy sat on the edge of his and Mama’s bed and stared at Van’s graduation picture.

“I’ve always been able to say I have four children,” he said, sobbing. “Now, I only have three.”

I turned 18 years old, graduated from high school, and thought I was something. I was ready to see the world—or so I thought.

I begged, pleaded, and, yes, even resorted to tears in order to take a trip to the beach with just my friends right after graduation. Mama said no. But Daddy had a different response, one that came in the form of a note to my friends:

“Take care of her – she’s all I’ve got—her name is all she’s got.”

I still have that note tucked away in a drawer.

When I look at the black and white photo of a laughing, big brown-eyed two-year-old girl, I think, “What did I do to deserve to be born to a mom and a dad who loved me beyond love—loved me no matter how badly I messed up—or no matter how well I did—in other words, no matter what?”

To all you dads out there, let me say, “Happy Father’s Day” to you since I can’t tell my dad anymore.

And dads, go teach your daughters how to put gas in the car and how to change a tire—teach them that even though they need to be able to take care of themselves in this mean world, they can still always come back home.

And you’ll be there….no matter what.