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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

Well, it’s been twenty-five years. And never a day goes by that I see something and have a thought that reminds me of you. The good stuff, you know. And, perhaps a few incidents that weren’t so good.

But that’s life.

And if I had it to do over, you’d be the father I’d pick to make sure I grew to be a man meeting the responsibilities that a man will face in this world today.

You know, when I was in elementary school in Wheeler, I never could figure how you always knew when I got in trouble. It was years before I realized that you didn’t have magical powers, but that you and the superintendent often visited.

Carrick? I think that was his name. I was grown when you revealed that you had specifically requested he contact you whenever I broke any school rules.

One thing you should know is that I would have taken five paddlings from him than to get one from you.

As a Dad, I never could match your skill and finesse with a leather belt. Now, if you were here today, you’d be cussing the namby-pamby discipline many parents pass on to their children.

I have no question there are very few problem kids today that you couldn’t handle. Remember the old spanking merry-go-round?

I’ll never forget you holding my arm, me screaming and trying to run from the belt.

All I succeeded doing was running in circles while you just pivoted on your feet and flailed away at my legs with your belt. If you only knew how many times I considered making that leather strap disappear. But then, you would have known who did it.

Today, some bleeding heart would claim such discipline was child abuse. Nonsense. It’s child abuse not to discipline kids, but the idiots can’t see it that way. And they’re always wondering just why kids are so much trouble today.

Spankings weren’t the only way you managed me. I was mischievous, sneaky, lied if I thought I could get away with it. I had so many things wrong with me only a hard-headed Panhandle boy with the nickname, Nubbin, could have kept me straight.

You always were one step ahead of me like the time the Haltom City police stopped me for reckless driving. I was only fourteen, so they called you and tossed me in jail. I was scared witless. For the next fours, it was all I could do to hold back the tears. Then they took my license away from me.

Remember that?

It was all of fifteen years later out on your patio listening to a Texas Rangers baseball game that you laughed and revealed you had asked them to throw me behind bars and you were the one holding my license.

Well, you sure made your point.

And who can ever forget that Christmas when Mom and Sammy came down with pneumonia out by Lubbock and you and I went back to Fort Worth for—well, I don’t know why we went back, but I remember you telling me to pick up my trumpet.

You mentioned that night many times in the years to come. There we were in a 1947 Nash speeding through small towns shut down for the night, and I’d stick my horn out the window and blast out the cavalry signal for ‘charge’. Then we’d laugh as lights popped on.

You were always there for me, even when your work took you out of town. I’ll never forget the second year I boxed in the Golden Gloves. That was about ’51 or ’52. You were on the road back from Houston listening on the car radio. When the announcement was made that I forfeited the bout, you stopped at the first house and paid them to use their telephone.

Gosh, Dad, there’s so much I’d like to talk to you about.

I’d like to sit around a campfire like we did on our deer hunting trips and shoot the breeze. I’d like to go fishing up in Oklahoma with Mo and Mae. You and Mo always had such a great time together. Mo passed away. So did Mae. But you already know that. You and Mom have probably already gone fishing with them.

There’s a lot I’d like to do with you. I can’t, but I can do it now is with my children and grandchildren.

You understand what I mean?

I can’t say exactly when it came about, but somewhere in the mid-sixties, we became friends, good friends.

The most rewarding moment of my life was not long before I moved down here to Port Neches. You and I were on the patio with Jim Beam and talking about what lay down the road as well as a lot of other philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Just before I left, I hugged you and said for the first time, “I love you, Dad.”

You simply hugged me back and replied. “I love you too, Boy. You take care now, you hear?”

I heard, Dad. And thanks for everything.

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