The Last Gift My Daddy Gave Me

There’s this thing on Facebook where nearly every morning I am greeted with a “memory” from one of the past four years, with the option to see all of my memories from this day in each year past.

This morning the face of my sweet cousin-in-law, who was pregnant in the picture from four years ago, started my day.  I smiled to think that just over four years ago we were at one of our family’s Fall Hootenannies and Turkey Egg Hunts.  And then I remembered.

As if I could really forget what this time of year was about four years ago and again two years ago.  It would be impossible enough to forget without Facebook’s prompting, but with it, I’m there.  Again.

Four years ago, my Daddy wasn’t doing so well.  He was worn out from his long battle with the Giant–Lymphoma.  It had taken away so much from him, but not his spirit.  And yet, he was growing weary.  When we talked about the upcoming gathering at his sister’s house about an hour or so north of here, he encouraged me to go.  Whether I wanted to admit it to myself or not, I knew things were changing.  I don’t think I realized just how short the time we had left together would be, but I knew Daddy was not healing as we had hoped.

It was the first Saturday in November, and my sisters had talked about coming down and being with Mama and Daddy for the day.  I thought I should be there too, but Daddy said no.  He thought I should go to see my aunts and uncles and cousins and let my children play and for us to have a great time as always.

Go, he said.  I’ll still be here.

Oh, Daddy.

Little did any of us realize at that gathering that exactly two weeks later, we’d be gathered in my Mama’s yard, not in the comfortable fall wear from before but in stiff shoes, shined bright, and slacks and dresses and combed hair.  We’d be loading up in cars to make the drive out to the little cemetery by the old church, where the gravestones read like our family tree.  And now there would be one more.

I though back on that today–Daddy sending me for a day of normal.  A day of extraordinary ordinary time with family.  His family.  Our people.  What a gift he gave me.  I think he was sending me to the arms of the ones he knew would carry me through the years to come.  He knew, my Daddy did, that time was short.  But he also knew that time would become long, and we would need each other to laugh and cry with, to celebrate and grieve with, and to share our stories.

Upon reflection, I look at Daddy and the way he lived and what he shared with me, and I realize that the greatest gift we can give our children is the chance to live a good story.  Multitudes of them, in fact.  They don’t have to be outstanding, but there’s nothing like a good story.  My Daddy lived them, he shared them, and he raised us smack dab in the middle of many a good story.  The next greatest gift we can leave our children is folks to share those stories with–whether family or friends or folks who are both.

And that’s what my Daddy was doing that day.  He wanted me and mine to have one more good story to put in our books.  He wanted us to be with those who share in so many of our stories, and who would walk with us through the hardest one of all.

In “An Affair to Remember” Deborah Kerr’s character says to Cary Grant’s:

IMG_0327

Tonight I’m thankful for the warm memories that come to me just as the coldest time of year is about to be upon us.  I’m thankful for the stories I’ve heard and the stories I’ve lived, and for the storytellers who raised me to appreciate both.  Tonight I marvel at the man who looked at me that day and knew exactly what I needed, and despite where he was on his journey, was unselfish and encouraged me to make that happen.  From the moment I took my first breath until the moment he took his last, he was the best Daddy that ever was, and in his wisdom, one of the last things he did was remind me to turn to our stories and the people in them for warmth and comfort and love.

Giving thanks for the memories…..

Love to all.

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