Daddy’s words still with me

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 9, 2013

In author Robert Ruark’s book, “The Old Man and the Boy,” a crusty old man teaches his grandson life lessons. He got his point across to the boy through their experiences hunting, fishing and camping together.

Numerous words of wisdom in the book brought to mind my daddy. I vividly remember his hugs when I skinned my knees from a fall off my bicycle, bumped my head, or gashed my foot so deeply that it required a rush trip to our family doctor’s office. As tears streamed down my face, he would hug me again and assure me that “It’ll feel so good when it quits hurting.” Those silly but reassuring words always caused my tears to dissolve into giggles for a second or two.

When the day came that I faced the giant step from a rural junior high school to a large city high school, I fretted as to whether I could cope with the transition. He gave me a big hug, kissed me on the cheek and sent me off saying, “Remember you are as good as the best and better than the rest.”

In my eyes, my daddy was perfect. When I was in elementary school where many of my classmates’ daddies were coal miners, something happened that caused me to live in fear for his life. During class one morning, a teacher stepped into our room and whispered something to our teacher. Seconds later, she led a little girl out into the hall. During recess, we found out that her father had died in a mining accident. I still remember the shock I felt. That night when Daddy came home from work, I rushed to him and flung my arms around him. Although I knew his job at the company store did not require him to go underground, my fear lingered for weeks.

He was an avid baseball fan. Sometimes he took me with him to the Birmingham Barons’ games. He also followed his major league favorites. After he retired, he sat for hours watching the World Series on television. I am glad he enjoyed his brief retirement years.

And, contrary to my childish thoughts, he wasn’t perfect, as none of us are, but he loved his family. I never doubted his love for me, even during a few times he scolded me as a child. (He left the discipline to my mother.) He kissed my mother and me goodbye every morning and often told us he loved us.

As time passed, I guess I thought that Daddy would live forever. His paternal grandfather lived past 100 and his own daddy made it to 90. I thought that if heredity counted, he would reach those milestones. He didn’t. He left us at 72.

Sometimes when I get a cut on my finger or bump my head, I recall with a smile those words, “It’ll feel so good when it quits hurting.” Physically, he is gone, but Daddy still lives in my heart.