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Sharon Randall: Father’s Day

By Sharon Randall

   My dad left this world long ago, too soon, but my memories of him shine clear and bright and true. I think of him often, especially on Father’s Day.
   I picture him fishing. Smokin’ and jokin.’ Telling stories. Making me laugh. In all those memories, his laugh is the same old chuckle. His eyes are still as blue as the lakes he loved to fish. And the thought of him still lights me up like the little girl who lay awake at night listening for him to come home from second shift at the mill.
   When I was a child, I felt sure the sun rose and set in my daddy’s eyes. My mother did not share that feeling. Maybe she did the night they ran off to get married. She was 15; he was 25. They divorced when I was 2.
   I lived with my mother but often spent weekends and holidays with my dad on his parents’ farm in the mountains of North Carolina. Most days, we were 40 miles apart. And yet he remained an ever-present and reassuring light in my life.
   That is love. You don’t need to be together to feel it, to know it is true. Love doesn’t end when loved ones are apart. It stays with one and follows the other over space and time and even over death, never letting go.
   My dad wasn’t perfect. Neither am I. If you think you are, you might want to think again.
   Dad was stubborn. Hard-headed. Opinionated. And after years of changing shifts at the mill each week (first, second, graveyard), he had a tendency to fall asleep at inconvenient times — in church or in conversations or occasionally at the wheel.
   He never wrecked. Not with me. But he came close. I’d yell, “Daddy! You’re gonna kill us and Mama will be mad!”
   Then he’d quit snoring and start singing, “Hey, good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” like he wasn’t really asleep.
   He taught me how to ride a horse, milk a cow, drive a car and speak my own mind. He tried to teach me to fish but saw that it was hopeless.
   He’d give me a dollar and say, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”  He never forgot my birthday. And he sent me notes in a secret code: “Hope 2 c u b4 __!”
 (“Hope to see you before long!”)
   I remember a scar on his back from a Nazi bullet in WWII.
   “Mama said she told you not to go. Why did you enlist?”
   He gave me a long look. “I loved your mama,” he said. “But I loved my country, too.”
   My mother was often the talk of her mother and eight sisters, but my dad never spoke ill of her. I loved him a lot for that.
   He bought one suit and wore it three times: To my graduations from high school and college and to walk me down the aisle.
   He flew to California for my wedding; for the birth of my first child; and finally — with a bad limp, slurred speech and a paralyzed arm — he came to play with my children after he was released from the VA Hospital, where he’d spent seven years recovering from a stroke.
   The last time I saw him was on his porch in North Carolina. We had a good visit. He seemed happy. I snapped his photo, fought back tears, said, “I love you, Dad,” and drove away.
   In the next few years, we’d talk on the phone each week mostly about my kids. He never told me he was ill. That’s what he wrote in the note he left the night he took his life. He feared he had cancer but wasn’t up for a fight. He’d had his fill of hospitals.
   That’s a memory I’d rather not recall. But we don’t choose our memories. They choose us. My dad’s final moment is a hard one to picture. But it’s only one piece of a beautiful puzzle.
   On Father’s Day, and every day, I remember him. He loved fishing. Smokin’ and jokin’. Telling stories. Making me laugh. He loved my mother. He loved his country. He loved my children. He loved me.
   And he always will.
   He was my father. I am his daughter. And some fine day, I “hope 2 c him again b4 __.”
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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