As a child, I was my Daddy’s shadow. Everywhere he went, I went too. Everything he did, I tried to do the same.
The summer I was 4 years old, Daddy built us a new house from the ground up. When he dug the basement, I remember digging my own “basement” in the dirt piles he shoveled out. When Daddy cut the ends off two-by-fours during the framing stage, those blocks of wood “framed” the house under construction in my 4-year-old hands.
I was right by Daddy’s side, and undoubtedly in his way, every day that summer, yet I don’t remember him ever shooing me away. I’m sure my presence slowed his progress, yet he was infinitely patient with me.
Each new tool he picked up, elicited, “What’s that, Daddy?” Each new task he undertook brought, “What ya doin’ now?” And no matter how tired he was or how many times I asked the same question, Daddy just laughed, wiped the sweat from his brow, and explained all over again.”
When I talk about it now, I’m sure most folks think, “Yeah, that’s just the rose-colored memories of a 4-year-old.” But some people, like my brother and my cousins, believe every word, because they knew my dad and they also knew who was working right by his side that summer – my grandfather, the one who had taught Daddy, by example, how to be a father.
Daddy and Grandpa both died many years ago while I was still in my twenties. Yet even now, not a day goes by that I don’t think of my dad and miss him. Often I’ll catch myself saying something he used to say or doing something the way he did. It makes me smile and feel him smiling down on me.
During my recovery from breast cancer last year, I lost all my hair as a side effect of chemotherapy. When it finally grew back I was amazed to find it curly, very curly, just like my dad’s used to be. Now, though I need a haircut, I can’t bring myself to do it because every time I see those curls in the mirror I think of Daddy.
When my brother Roy calls from Michigan to say he misses me and check how our elderly mother is doing, I hear my dad in Roy’s low voice, and also in his caring spirit.
My son Matt is a spitting image of my dad, who died before Matt was even born.
When Matt was a teenager I showed him a photo of Daddy at his age and asked, “Who is this?” Without hesitation Matt said, “It’s me.”
When I told him the truth we both had a good laugh, and I saw my dad in Matt all over again. I also saw a “teachable moment” to share with my son what kind of person his grandfather was. You see, in the photo, Daddy was riding a tractor towing a load of hay that he had harvested for his brother-in-law who had a bad back. That’s just the giving kind of person Daddy was.
Because of him, I looked for and found the same qualities in the man I married. John was and is a caring, patient dad. And now that our kids are grown, he’s a terrific grandpa who also helps care for my elderly mother as if she were his own.
I still miss my daddy, but I see him living on in my brother, my husband, and my son. A good father never really passes away. His influence and legacy resonate from generation to generation.