Missing my father this Father#039;s Day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I think of him pretty much everyday. Each time I drive to work, I pass the brick-fronted farmhouse with the slippery slate roof, the one Mama agonized he’d tumble right off of one day. I pass the old barn, now a pile of rubble after hurricane season last year, and the gate to the little lane leading down to the fields, where I would walk as &uot;water boy&uot; on blazing summer days when the hay needed cutting.

I travel down the same dusty, red clay road he traveled hundreds of times in his lifetime, three and one-half miles of hills and curves, past the old rock washer I dubbed &uot;The Little Grand Canyon,&uot; beneath the shady stretch of road where tall trees reach their leafy hands out in greeting each summer.

Sometimes he piloted the family car, an unwieldy station wagon he dubbed the &uot;Green Lizard,&uot; just right for two parents and three kids, luggage, inflatable floats, coloring books and crayons, a few novels, a cooler filled with ham sandwiches and Coca-Colas in glass bottles, all the required items for a summer trip to the beach or to Grandma Wood’s house in Tennessee.

Other times he was on his pickup truck. He owned a series of them over the years, bought pre-owned, pre-dented, with stubborn manual transmissions, doors that squealed whenever you opened them and at least one dial or two that didn’t work (one had a speedometer that was perpetually stuck on 30 mph. &uot;If the speed cops stop me, well, I’ll tell ’em it just stopped working…I don’t have to say just WHEN it stopped working.&uot;).

The trucks were different colors over the years – blue, green, white – but they all came to smell of hay, motor oil, sweat and the smoke of Kool cigarettes, mingled with the faint scent of the slightly melted candy bars he would sometimes hide in the glove box.

Whether driving his old truck or the family sedan, he would invariably have a feed cap on his head. Over the years, he collected dozens of them. To walk out of the farmhouse without his cap, would be akin to him leaving home stark naked (though the rules changed on Sundays, when Mama made him abandon his beloved cap and Liberty overalls for Sunday-go-to-meeting duds).

He was a farmer, born and raised on the same land he lived on all his life. A family man, he never got the son he pined for, but dearly loved his three girls. &uot;I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any of ’em, and wouldn’t give a dime for another one,&uot; he loved to say.

His last truck was his nicest – automatic and with air conditioning, no less – and sometimes I drive it, listening to Alan Jackson and songs from &uot;Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.&uot;

I’ll turn up the volume, adjust the angle of my hat – I have dozens of them – and smile and say, &uot;This one’s for you, Pop.&uot;

It’s been more three years, and I still miss you. I always will.

Happy Fathers’ Day.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.