My daddy isn't and never was the real sappy type. We didn't have the typical relationship, and rarely said I love you. We were more likely to be fighting and telling each other to go to hell, or laughing and drinking tequila. We didn't need all that hugging, lovey stuff. We just knew we loved one another and that was, and still is, enough.
Now I'm having to accept that my daddy is going to die. Probably soon. The man who was given six months 12 years ago, cheated death more times than I care to recall, and taught me how to live even when you're dying, is growing tired. I don't know how long I have left with him, a day, a year, ten years.... who knows... what I do know is I find myself on memory lane quite a bit these days. The hands that taught me how to work on a car, the hands that steered semis all over this country, that jammed gears, and made me hope someday I could drive as well as he did, they shake now. The strength is gone from them.
The legs that carried him over miles of oil fields and countless parking lots of truck stops are thin and weak. He now walks slowly and kind of shuffles. But I remember when he walked first my sister, then years later myself down the aisle. He didn't shuffle then. He stood tall and strong.
There are no more go-carts and dirt track racing. There's no more riding runaway ponies that are way too small for him. There's no more using a Ford pick up truck to move a full-size trailer house. There's no more boat rides, or cruising dirt roads. Instead of a motorcycle now he rides an electric scooter. There's no more highway and no more 18 wheelers bringing him home.
He no longer smells of diesel and cigarettes and road dust. His boots go unworn, and his shirts hang mostly forgotten in the closet. The weird cloth hats he wore with the awful prints and colors are tucked away, and his hair has mostly gone. Funny how I can see old photos of him with hair, but in my memories, he has always been bald.
I watch him and my mother, married over 40 years now, and wonder at how I once believed they didn't truly love one another. I see now that my daddy loved my mama and she loved him. And I see now how they have just grown to love each other more. I also see the physical pain in my mother's eyes as she watches the man she spent over half her life with slowly disappear.
I remember how my daddy was a gypsy at heart. We were always moving. It reminds me of a promise he made Mama back in 1989. Come to Missouri and you won't have to move again. I see the changes in the house that they moved us into in 1989, the porch, the remodeling, the wheelchair ramp, but more than anything I see that Daddy kept his promise. Mama hasn't had to move again.
Their home now holds oxygen machines and a hospital bed where so many obnoxious teenagers once gathered. Daddy's porch swing sitting doesn't happen as often as it used to, and when it does it's a wheelchair that holds him instead of the swing. But he still waves at every car that drives by.
I see the changes in my daddy. The weakened breath, the tired body, but I also see the things that remain. You will probably still get butter smeared on your face if you go visit, he just has to bribe someone else to do it now. You will still hear a dirty joke or ten, you will still get yelled at for blocking his television, or pulling your car up so he can't see the road. It's probably still a safe bet to stick your gum on that tree in the yard before you go in, and he still expects to hear "Hey you old fart" when you say hello. He still gives Mama a hard time, and he can still rant forever over my choices and still swear he doesn't know why I'm so out of control, and yes, he still says it's Mama's fault that I'm so hard to handle.
He will still say the most absurd, unexpected things, and more than likely he will shoot you the finger. If you sit on his couch he will still take that as an open invitation to lecture you about something, and the beer is still in the fridge, just bring one back for him too.
That same mischievous glint still shines in his blue eyes, and he will definitely do his best to get you in trouble with SOMEONE.
My daddy is still there, inside that broken shell of a body. But he is getting tired. We all see it. And we're not ever going to be ready to let him go, even though we can't be selfish and keep him. I have no idea if my daddy realizes the impact he has had on so many people, I've never asked. I don't know if he understands just how strong he is in our eyes, and how many times he showed us that even a common man can prove miracles exist.
I'm breaking inside right now. All these years I've told myself I was ready whenever he was, that when he grew tired, I would let him go gracefully, but, boy that's the biggest lie I've ever told myself.
Our parents teach us many things, and my daddy taught me so much. But what he didn't teach me, what he can't teach me, is how to live without him once he is gone. That's one I have to learn on my own when the time comes, and after 12 years of preparing to lose him, I realize I still have no clue how I'm going to do that. But, the flip side to that is that I do still have my daddy, and through those years he taught me how to LIVE, and how to do it in the most amazing unforgettable way... I thank him for that.