If you are raised by a football coach, your fatherly advice sounds like the motivational posters in the locker room at school. “Quitters never win. Winners never quit.” “If you think you’re beaten, you are.” “There’s nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it.” Medical advice comes in the form of “Can you walk? Then, walk it off.”
Our parents were as old as most of our classmates’ grandparents. I never thought of it when I was a kid. After all, our parents are our parents and what they are is normal to us. But, they didn’t marry until they were older than most. Mother was 27 and Daddy was 36. Difficulties in conceiving put off pregnancy for 6 years so middle age was looming the first time they made it to the delivery room.
It was Daddy who provided the unconditional and absolute love in our family. Mother balanced it with conditional love. Until I started blogging, I never noticed that it is much more normal for me to call Mother “Mother.” I can’t imagine our dad being anyone but “Daddy.”
A natural athlete, Daddy excelled at every sport. It’s ironic that he got 3 awkward daughters. No sons. He never acted disappointed saying when asked if he wished we’d gotten a brother: “The good Lord knew what I needed.”
He coached football for 25 years, coaching teams to state finals on several occasions. The year before I was born, our dad traded in his Coach moniker and became a principal. Because health insurance didn’t cover pregnancy when I was born, he worked on an offshore oil rig for the summer so they could pay the doctor. He was 46 at the time.
We were raised in a small south Texas town and part of his job was convincing new college grads to come teach for the George West Independent School District. He didn’t get to travel alone. One of us girls always made the trips to Texas Lutheran, Texas State University, and UT.
A patient listener, he must have wanted to yell “every other word” when I was his ride along buddy. I had the unfortunate knack for taking 3 hours to tell the plot of a 90 minute movie we’d recently seen. He never hurried me along. He smiled encouragingly and nodded appropriately. I didn’t hear of the patience of Job until I was older. I lived with the patience of Daddy.
He attempted to make athletes out of us klutzy girls. In George West, the driving range was the football field. Mother wouldn’t let Daddy leave without one or more of us in the car so we were given golf clubs and a couple of golf balls and tried to make the ball go further than a 6″ roll off the tee.
He went to every basketball game, choir concert, school play, speech tournament, piano recital or art exhibit that we girls had. After watching us perform, he’d say things like, “You were the best one out there, honey. There ought to be a senatorial investigation if you didn’t win.”
Senatorial investigation. I still use that phrase when I don’t get a bid or when my favored team doesn’t win.
As he got older, he began to show signs of forgetfulness that became alarming. A few years later, it was evident that Mother couldn’t take care of him 30 miles out in the middle of Uvalde County wilderness. And neither could we girls. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That was in 1983 when the disease wasn’t well-known and there was little in the form of meds to delay the onslaught.
I took care of him during one of Mother’s hospital stays. Georgie was 8 at the time and was a trooper as we tried to make sure he didn’t wander out of my small apartment. On the 4th or 5th night after days of little sleep and constantly reminding him who we were and where we were, Georgie and I fell asleep on the sofa that we had moved to block the apartment door.
I woke at 4 as Daddy covered us with a blanket. He softly said, “It’s okay, honey. Daddy’s right here.”
He was Daddy to the end and this and every Father’s Day his memory stays dear.