I never called my Daddy anything but Daddy. Not Father, nor Bill nor anything else. He was in fact, my Daddy. He was always a quiet man whose word was as solid as gold. He really wasn't a strict disciplinarian, but especially as I got older, I always minded him out of respect. I can barely remember the only time he ever spanked me. I was about three years old and was giving my Mom a hard time as she was trying to give me a bath. He came in the bathroom and spanked my naked bottom leaving hand prints. When he saw what he had done, he broke down and cried and never spanked me again. Never.
That never spanking me again was likely put to the test a few times. Like the time I was playing service station in the yard while he was at work.
I played all day in the driveway. My Mom would check on me several times during the day and had marveled at how well I was playing alone. I would clean off the car windshield, check the tires and pretend I was gassing up the car. I did this over and over again all day long. When my Daddy returned home from work, my Mom bragged on me to Dad about how well I had played by myself all day long. It wasn't until my Daddy got in the car to drive to the store that he realized all four tires were flat and the gas tank was full of rocks. That incident ended my days as a gas station attendant.
My Daddy was quite the athlete, especially as a baseball player. Baseball was always big in our family. His father was offered a contract to play for the Cleveland Indians, (known as the Cleveland Bluebirds) back in 1910, but turned it down to go to work and help his family. He was the first baseball coach I ever had and knew more about the game than anyone I ever knew. Every sporting event I ever participated in, he was there. On steamy summer nights, we would sit in the front seat of his old Nash Rambler and listen to New York Yankee games on WPIX radio in New York. We seldom talked but that was a memory I will never forget.
He left this world far too soon dying of cancer in 1991. He was a few months short of his 66th birthday and I was only 39. That is much too soon to lose your Daddy, especially the way he died. I drove to Nashville once weekly when he went under Hospice care. Near the end, he was barely 100 pounds and wore an adult diaper but he would always sit up and talk to me when I came to visit. As time went on, my visits became more frequent and the final time I ever saw him alive he was unable to sit up. Even with his eyes closed, he knew I was there. I talked with him one final time, not knowing if he heard me or not. I told him he was the best man I ever knew and I loved him. Without opening his eyes, he responded with, "I love you."
A couple of days later I was coaching my Dixie Youth baseball team at Powells Crossroads Park. He died that afternoon and I knew exactly the moment he passed away. Things seemed to slow down to a crawl and almost came to a complete stop. It was the most unusual feeling I ever had and, after the game, I told my wife I needed to call my house and check on my Daddy. We went with our family to eat in Chattanooga and as soon as I arrived, I used a pay phone and called my Mom. She tearfully told me that Daddy was gone and that's when I realized the time he actually passed away.
It took a long time for me to accept the fact he was no longer here with us. I have never really gotten over it, I think a person never does really "get over it." He was a kind, loving Christian man and I know that within seconds of his death, he was no longer in any pain and suffered no more. I long for the time I will see him again and wish him a "Happy Fathers Day."
Those who have also lost their Daddy know what I'm talking about. For those who still have their Daddy, take advantage of every opportunity you have to spend time with him and tell him you love him.
Happy Fathers Day to all Daddys everywhere.
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com