He was my daddy, and I was his little girl. Not biologically, but in every way that mattered. I don’t remember when he came into my life, I just know that he was always there when it mattered. According to my mother, I had Daddy wrapped around my little finger from the moment we met. Again, I don’t remember that. I just remember enjoying every moment I spent with him.
One of my earliest memories is of a time that Daddy and I drove together to a football game in Amarillo. From the age of four, I was Daddy’s football watching buddy. He taught me about first downs and illegal blocks, quarterback sneaks and Hail Mary passes. Living in small town Texas we were avid fans of the the local high school team, the Floydada Whirlwinds. We seldom, if ever, missed a game. Usually, we attended as a family, but on this occasion Mom stayed home in protest, saying it was too cold.
I vividly remember the drive to the game. I was standing in the seat next to Daddy (we used the old “parental arm” method of child safety restraint back then). Snow was falling in huge flakes, covering the road and making it hard for us to see. To keep me occupied, Daddy taught me to watch the odometer so I could count off the miles to Amarillo. Pretty soon, I could pinpoint a mile with my eyes closed. It seemed like a really long distance! According to family legend when we got to the game everyone was amazed that he’d brought me with him, driving into one of the worst storms in memory. My Nanny and Grandaddy were there and I snuggled into the warmth of my family to watch the Whirlwinds win. I don’t remember the cold, just the love.
Daddy managed the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Floydada for many years. As soon as I was old enough I’d walk to the store–we only lived a couple of blocks away–to see Daddy and spend my allowance money. I got the hefty sum of $1 a week, coincidentally one could buy a 45 rpm record at Piggly Wiggly for 99 cents at the time, so I had quite the collection. No matter what he was doing, Daddy would stop and give me a hug and a kiss. If he wasn’t terribly busy he’d ask me to tag along. I got to go behind the swinging doors to smell the fresh produce as it came in. I got to watch the butchers cut meat with the huge slicer. I got to be part of his world.
That world continued to turn. Daddy had his own store for awhile, but when that didn’t pan out we moved to Dumas. The Piggly Wiggly chain closed its stores in Texas and Mom and Dad moved to Canyon and then several years later, to Abilene. My brothers and I had all grown up, moved away, and started our own families. Life was as it should be.
Then we lost Mom to cancer. After Mom passed away Daddy’s life changed dramatically. He was still working, so he could take some memorable trips. He took one to California to spend time with his sisters. He traveled to our home in Kansas and to the homes of my brothers. He’d take off and head to the casinos on occasion.
Daddy and I went to Ruidoso, New Mexico, one weekend for the most fun I’ve ever had losing money. I’d driven from Kansas to see him, and I hadn’t been at his tiny apartment for longer than 15 minutes before he said, “Sis, you want to go to the casino?” So off we went. Daddy hit a hot streak at the blackjack table while I lost at slots. Every now and then I’d wander by his table and he’d hand me a stack of chips that I’d pocket. He decided I was the best gambling partner he’d ever had since he actually took home some money. He took me to the horse races and told me I bet just like my mom, code for, “you aren’t very good at this,” but again he won some money and said I could gamble with him any time. That was high praise, indeed.
Then the grocery store Daddy had been working for closed with no advance notice. Studly invited him to move in with us. Our kids were grown by then and we’d been transferred to Florida. We had plenty of room and sunshine year round. Yet he declined. He didn’t want to be in the way. Finally Studly insisted. Daddy was sick and really needed to be closer to family. So, we had Daddy with us.
Those were great years. Daddy and I got to know each other as adults. He told me stories about his Navy days that left me speechless. Stories I cannot repeat here. Great Stories. He and Studly played golf as long as Daddy was able, and even after his COPD no longer allowed him to play he’d hang out in the garage and create the perfect bag of clubs for a particular course.
Studly earned a nice promotion that prompted Daddy to call him The Director, from that point on, and was transferred to Illinois, so while Studly worked, Daddy and I explored our new state. I started doing some substitute teaching and Daddy hung out around the house. He had his daily routines and a nice little pickup truck, but he spent a lot of time sitting on our front porch and interacting with our neighbors. No matter where he went, he made friends. And we got to talk. We still enjoyed our football games and he’d still make an occasional run to the casino in Peoria, but his lung disease was getting the best of him.
His last days were spent in the hospital. We had made arrangements for hospice care, and on the day before we were to take him home, he perked up dramatically. He and my brother Kelly and I had the best day. We talked and made plans. We reminisced and laughed. When Kelly stepped out of the room to take a call, Daddy said to me, “Sis, in case I forget to tell you, I really had a great time with you and your brother today.”
That night he had a stroke and he passed away the next evening. Today would have been his birthday. My Daddy, my love. I miss him every day.
Peace and Love, People.