Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Death Day, Daddy

Cinco de Mayo. You do know this is an American holiday, right? And has nothing to do with Mexican Independence?

Well, good.

Thirty-four years ago today my daddy died, two weeks after he turned forty-nine. The death certificate said myocardial infarction. But I knew he died of a broken heart.

He’d seen much, including the Pacific from an aircraft carrier in WWII when he was barely shaving. Did a tour in Korea, then back to the states. My daddy gave up much, got a lot, drank a lot, lost it all. My mama. Us kids. Our respect and love.

Twenty years later, six years sober in AA, I came to understand. And to forgive. To be sorry for my part in the demise of our relationship.

To regain my love for him.

It took me all those years to remember the man who had adored me as a child, lifted me to his lap to watch TV, taught me how to ride a bike and drive a ’68 stick-shift Beetle.

How could an intelligent young woman spend so many years not remembering the man who let her sit in front of him and drive the beat-up old tractor he doted on, showed her how to husk corn and tell if a bean was ripe? Who painstakingly repeated the name of every widget and tool in his impressive collection, no matter how many times I asked? (How else do you think I scored 98 percent on the ASVAB?)

It took me another five years to mourn losing my daddy, not just once, but three times. It was 2001, the towers were smoldering, and so was I.

I wrote it out, my hurt and pain. Somewhere those pages must still exist. I wailed and cried for the six year-old who lost her hero to alcohol. Then I sobbed as I grieved for the drunken, drug-addicted twenty-year-old who declared she was glad that asshole was dead and dulled the pain at his passing in her own bottle.

Finally, I mourned for the years lost, hating the one parent who actually got me. He was the one who accepted me as I was, encouraged me, praised me. The one who almost busted a gut he was so proud at my high school graduation. He missed my college graduation in '81. He died in '77. He was there for my doctorate in '98, tucked safely in the pocket of my dress under my robe. By my heart.

The two most thoughtful gifts I've ever receieved were from him: a hot-pink Samsonite suitcase with my initials on the latches and an enormous, Unabridged Webster’s dictionary.

Did that man know me or what? Seems he knew I'd turn out to be a vagabond writer.

So, for my Daddy, thirty-four years gone, I dedicate this song, his favorite, and this video of Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River. Keep watching at the end of the song, the videographer delivers a treat: clips of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, from beginning to (almost) end.



I love you, Daddy. I see you and feel you here in Villa Rica, home of your piney woods. And I'm thinking of you on this blackberry winter night.

Happy Cinco de Mayo.

~ Olivia J. Herrell

10 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

So sad when a father passes away early, mine was 42 yrs of age and I was only three.
Loved the read and of course listening to Moon River,

Yvonne.

Elliot Grace said...

...geez Olivia, that was powerful. Spilling your heart out, causing my jaw to quiver.

You're armed with passion, my dear, and plenty of it.

EL

February Grace said...

*huge hug*

What a tribute. I'm speechless.

<3 bru

Olivia J. Herrell said...

Yvonne, you, too, must have a deep well of grief for what was, what wasn't and what could have been. I'm so sorry for your loss.

EL, it's partly your fault, my dear. (I say that in the best of ways.) You told me awhile back on one such post that you thought I had discovered my, hmm, what did you call it? Dang. Calling? Was that the word? Anyway, am I showing too much?

I know I'm not the only one who has suffered this kind of loss. It is my hope that they'll find some ray of forgiveness or love of their own, hopefully before their loved one dies, as mine did.

Bru, I'm so honored that you stopped by. I know you've had a tough week and you've been in my thoughts. Know I'm holding you tight in my prayers!

~ Olivia

Walter Knight said...

Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Wrote a chapter short story in the back of one of my books as a tribute to my dad. Now when I grieve I can just turn to the book marked page for comfort.

The Words Crafter said...

I absolutely cannot listen to Moon River. I cry like a baby. We're terribly similar in different ways, you and I. It's difficult when it's complicated. I'm glad we had some good stuff early on to hang on to when it all went sideways. And I'm glad you've come to a better place with your memories of him.....

Jayne said...

Olivia- a gorgeous tribute to your father! Oh and that movie, that song! Got me all teary-eyed here.

Donna Hole said...

What a lovely tribute Olivia. I'm sure he'd be proud of you today.

........dhole

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is one of the most touching remembrances I've ever read. I'm so glad you've found your way, and I'm so glad I've found your blog (thanks to the A to Z challenge).

Postman said...

You write the best eulogies on Blogger, you know that? That was a beautiful, not just because it was about your father, but about you coming to terms with your father's memory, too.

He sounded like a hell of a man, even if he had a fault or two.

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