Saturday, June 17, 2017

For My Father

William Morrell French

April 11, 1916 - March 25, 2002





Sawdust
 just might be my favorite smell
because it is the smell I most associate with my
father.

Hardware stores, 
wondrous places 
with lumber stacked to the ceiling,
two by fours on shelves,
nails,
hammers,
screws,
screwdrivers,
saws, table and hand,
knotty pine,
sheetrock,
paint,
painter's hat and brushes,
turpentine,
remind me of you, Daddy.  

How I loved when he would call out and ask 
if I wanted to go to the hardware store.
"Yes."
I think he liked that I loved those hardware stores so much.
I'd say,
"I love hardware stores."

Daddy, you took us camping in the Colorado mountains.

Coleman lanterns,
Coleman stoves,
percolators that made coffee over an open campfire,
camp cook kits made of aluminum,
were packed up and put in the back of the old station wagon
as we headed out to find our favorite "green spot."

After sunset,
 pine trees, 
looming larger than they seemed during the day, 
became a backdrop for a scene where family and friends gathered around a campfire,
 with cigarettes flickering around the edges of the fire,
grey smoke spiraling in the dark sky,
to listen to and to tell stories.
Oh, how we laughed.
You, Daddy, were the Chief Storyteller.
I loved your stories,
always.
You were the best storyteller ever.
Oh, how I miss you and your stories.

Snuggled in smelly green World War II era mummy bag sleeping bags,
scratchy green Army blankets spread over and under me as I slept on the ground,
staring at the stars,
thinking of those stories,
and pondering the vastness of the world, 
the universe, 
God, 
and what lay beyond,
sounds of the stream finally lulled me to sleep
in those magical days of childhood when my father took us camping.

Songs, we sang songs.
Daddy would start out with,
Ohhhhhhhhhhh,
and he would drag that "O" out forever.
I had a little pony,
His name was Dapple Grey,
I lent him to a lady to ride a mile away,

She whipped, she slashed him,
She rode him through the mire;
I would not lend my pony,
For all the lady's hire.

I never hear that song these days,
but if I did, I'd think of my dad.

Homemade rootbeer bottled in empty Coors beer bottles was my favorite summer treat.
I loved it when Daddy made homemade root beer.

Games, we played games at the dinner table.
We were not allowed to read at the table, but we played games.
I spy...
"Is it vegetable, mineral, or animal?"
We were allowed to ask those questions when you had us stumped.
Actually, he stumped us a lot.
Little did we know that he used that game to teach us deductive reasoning.

My father and I on graduation day.
1987
B.S in Business Administration 

Books, we read books.
My father always had a book in his hand if he wasn't building something,
or fishing,
or working on the house or the yard.
In his younger years, he worked hard at the railroad and on the house and the yard,
so to went to bed early to read.
In later years, he read large print books from the lending library of books for the blind in Denver.

It was expected that we would be readers.
T.V., or the "boob tube" as he called it, was not in our home until I was a teenager.
I still don't like to watch T.V.
I read.

He taught me to believe in myself,
to stand up for myself,
to think for myself and not blindly follow others.
He spoke truth to me when I didn't do those things.

My father had a temper.
He never liked any of the boys I brought home.
He chased most of them away.

He liked things neat and orderly and insisted on square corners on the bed.
We made sure the kitchen table and surfaces in the kitchen were not sticky.
He hated a sticky surface.
Every table setting better include a salad bowl or salad plate for the salad and bread.
Oh, and there had to be a knife, a fork, and a spoon in place for each meal.

He was demanding.
He was as gruff as a bear on the outside,
but I've known fewer as 
kind and generous as he was on the inside.
He gave to those in need,
and even when you weren't in need, but he seemed to sense you needed a little gift,
or some gas money,
he opened up his wallet and he gave.
He was so giving.
That was one of his best traits.

He wrote.
He wrote family histories and collected family genealogies.
He carried on a correspondence with his parents,
his children,
his cousins,
his siblings,
his relatives that were connected generations back.
I even found letters he wrote to his grandparents, signed,
"Love, Billie,"
in his papers.
I have a large file of the letters he wrote to me.
He was a great writer, communicator, and keeper of the family histories.

In his later years, he became a born-again Christian.
The transformation that Christ made in his life was dramatic.
His faith was strong to the end.

During his last days, I was by his side with my sisters.
I'm so grateful for those days when I was able to witness the 
firmness of his faith
 while trying in some small way to give what little 
rudimentary comfort
 I could to his physical body in its final decline.

In my journal on March 23, 2002, just two days before he died, I wrote,

It is good to be here with him.  Yesterday, he told me over and over again, "You're a good girl." He would say, "Sally Lulu, you're a good girl."  I would say, "You're a good Daddy."  


He was that.
He was the best Daddy ever.
He was my Daddy.
And, I was his Sally Lou.
I remember when he died, I was filled with absolute certainty that 
he loved me,
that he was proud of me,
and that was enough for both of us.





13 comments:

The Furry Gnome said...

Lovely tribute!

DJan said...

What a wonderful tribute to a fine man, Sally. Thank you for bringing him to life for me. :-)

Terra Hangen said...

Beautiful tribute to your dad, and many of the things you wrote apply to my dad as well. The books, the reading, the camping, being very supportive of me. Good daddies give us a rock to stand on and we are blessed.

Linda Reeder said...

You are fortunate to have had such a tremendous relationship with your father.

Gosia k said...

You had a fantastic father. Love from rainy Europe

Kay said...

Oh my gosh! This is such a beautiful post. He certainly was a most wonderful man, a most wonderful father. He raised a very amazing daughter!

Jean said...

You had an exceptionally close relationship with your dad. Lucky girl, lucky dad. What great memories you cherish now.

Olga Hebert said...

So sweet.

Arkansas Patti said...

You have painted such a vivid picture of the man you loved, respected and who taught you the important things in life. There are few relationships like those between a fine father and his daughter. He was well remembered today.

Jeanie said...

This is such a beautiful post -- sawdust and songs and books. He sounds like an amazing man, Sally. That doesn't surprise me -- he is, after all, YOUR dad.

Dee said...

Dear Sally, what a wonderfully touching tribute to your father. He was a great man. Thank you for sharing him with us in this special way. Peace.

troutbirder said...

Lucky you. I wish I could say something similar though I could about my mom...

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

What a touching account of your memories with your dad and how fortunate you were that he had a long life.