For all of my life, I lived in the presence of the greatest hero...my daddy. I know, it's a little pathetic for a 40 year old woman to call her father "Daddy", but I've got a reason for that which I'll get to in a moment.
My father grew up the 4th child, 2nd son in a family of 6 children. He worked hard. He signed up to join the Army. (The picture above is of my dad just after he had completed basic training.) He fought in Vietnam. He saw things, experienced things, and did things no human should have to do, but he did them without question. He came home from the war with a few issues. He was spit on and called names, but he soldiered on. He met and married the most beautiful woman in the world...my mom. He worked the family farm and eventually took over. Two kids, Mom and Dad had to call their family complete. Life got in the way and things fell apart. Dad went a little (to use his word) crazy. Mom and Dad divorced. Dad fell apart. He ended up being diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I watched as he struggled with it for 20 years. He fought every day to keep the demons at bay. He's not my hero because he was a POW. He's not my hero because he served in a war. He's my hero because my daddy fought to live every day of his life. I stood by him and walked through fire with him. I took the phone calls from the VA when he was locked up the 2nd time and he thought he was losing his mind. I cried, pleaded, and begged as he called me to say goodbye. He meant to take his own life. Let me tell you a 911 call from Pennsylvania to San Francisco to Palo Alto VA can save a life in a matter of mere minutes.
He fought for his benefits and began medication to help him deal with his demons. He still had his moments of depression, but they weren't as bad as they used to be. He had his doctor and family to lean on. He bought a house, a new truck, and he began to come alive again. Every week, he would call me just to see how I was doing. Yeah, I'm a bit of a daddy's girl:) When I began to dream of writing a book, he cheered me on. When I called to let him know I'd signed my first contract, he couldn't stop laughing. I could hear his smile through the phone lines. Did he ever read my book? Nah, but he intended to buy 100 copies when it went to print. He was going to hand them out to everybody for holiday gifts:)
Last Friday, he called to wish me a Happy Birthday. As soon as I said hello, he began to sing in his Elvis voice and I could only laugh. We talked for 2 hours that morning and we laughed over silly things. He asked if I had a suitable picture of him since he figured he needed to be the cover model for Book 2 when it came out. I laughed and said, "No, I'd like people to actually buy the book." I can still hear his laughter ringing in my ears. We hung up with these words: "In case this all ends tomorrow, girl, I want you to know what an honor it is to be your father. I'm proud of you and everything you are accomplishing. I love you!" I told him I loved him too and hung up the phone, tears bright in my eyes. Little did I know...
Yesterday, my daddy's oldest brother called me to let me know my daddy had passed away. My heart is broken into a million tiny pieces. I will pick up and go on, but for now, I need to grieve. This is the man who believed in me before I even existed. The man who struggled and fought to keep from breaking my heart. The man who loved me no matter what, who had my back when the chips were down, who never said no. The man to whom I raise a glass of the finest whiskey and salute him for what he taught me... as long as you fight until your last breath, you are living.I love you, Daddy, and I miss you more than I ever imagined! (Oh and look, Dad, I remembered to make this a blogpost. He read my blog every day so he could see what I had to say. It irritated him to no end if I forgot to make it a blogpost:)) My dad used to sing this to me when I was little and I wanted to share this with you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh-lAB4PzJw (As far as I know, he was just happy I was healthy. He didn't care if I was a boy or girl.)