He was funny and talented and smart beyond words. His math professors would bring him out of other classes to explain complex calculus problems to their students because he was the only one who could communicate the solution in a way they could understand. Because of his great intelligence, he got a perfect score on his SAT, the only person is the United States who did so the year he took it, and was awarded a full tuition scholarship to Duke University for academics. Professionally, he quickly rose through the ranks from engineer through the levels of management, until, at his death, he was director of world operations and ran the manufacturing division of Tyco Toys in Hong Kong. Despite this, Daddy did not parade his achievements. He drove a VW Bug, even while he was VP of Brunswick, and asked me to just tell my friends he was a manager. Daddy treated the garbage man just the same as he treated the CEO, which was with friendship and respect. He was a great man.
My father was corny and silly and social to a fault. Leaving church with him was near impossible, as he had to say hello to each and every person he knew and introduce himself to the people he did not. He loved Benny Hill, The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers, but also appreciated Madame Butterfly, Aida, and Faust. He had many roles, many faces, and, in my eyes, many wonderful qualities.
Particular things spring to my mind when I think about growing up and Daddy: Sunday brunch at Tulsa’s version of Tavern on the Green after church, just the two of us; help with my algebra that I could not understand, and his frustrated sympathy when I cried because letters could not be multiplied; a police stop that resulted from his kidding around in the car to make me laugh. As an adult, I remember him walking me down the aisle, visiting San Diego while I was pregnant, and clowning around at Jessica’s first birthday party with a balloon animal hat on his almost bald head, loving his new role as a grandfather.
At the age of 52, my father – my hero, died of melanoma. In barely a year’s time, the monster that is cancer quickly ravaged his body and invaded that beautiful brain that got him so far in his short life. When he passed, Jessica was barely three years old and our boys had not yet been conceived. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him and regret that my children do not know the great person that he was, that he is. I feel him with me sometimes, though never enough. It could never be enough. Many years ago, but since his passing, I was going through a difficult time and I looked to the ceiling and asked him if he was there. I wanted so desperately to have him there to take care of me as he had always done in life. Quietly, my rarely used music box began playing and I knew. He still looks over me, my mother, and my family.
When I started writing this blog, two of my father’s old friends from North Carolina, Bernice and Sylvia, individually said after reading it that I reminded them of my father. I don’t think anyone could have said anything else that could have made me more proud. I am aspiring to greatness.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.