I was reading Facebook and Phyllis Adams had this to say about my dad, “He always had a smile on his face and always made me laugh.” We used that line in his obituary. Thanks, Phyllis. And when I read it, I thought, that’s perfect—I can’t sum up my dad any better than that. Daddy had been really sick for several months, yet when I’d ask him how he was doing, he’d laugh and say, “I’ve been a whole lot better, but I was a whole lot younger.” He never lost his sense of humor.
I’d like to share several memories that show what kind of a father he was. The first happened when I was in first grade, learning to tell time. He took a big clock off the living room wall and spent an entire morning, turning the hands to 12:00, 1:15, 3:30, and on and on. You wouldn’t think that about him, but when he set out to teach you something, he had a world of patience.
Fast forward to when I was fifteen years old and learning to drive a car. Our family owned an old station wagon. It wasn’t quite yellow; it wasn’t quite green. It was just ugly. Dad drove that car into the middle of a plowed field and said, “You can’t hurt a plowed field, and you sure can’t hurt this old car, so take off.” As those of you who have taught a teenager to drive know, it takes nerves of steel.
And then I remember Daddy on my wedding day. We were standing in the back of this church waiting on the wedding march. Sue North and Jennifer Wiseman were playing. Dad turned to me and said, “Are you sure about this? My truck is parked right outside and we can still take off.” He didn’t care two hoots what people would think about it, or that he’d already paid for the wedding. He wanted to be sure I was happy. I told him that I was sure, and we proceeded down the aisle.
No conversation about my dad would be complete without talking about love. My parents met when he was sixteen and she was fourteen. They’ve been together ever since. I never had any doubt my parents belonged together, and the way Mama took care of him during his illness is my definition of true love.
There were two other great loves in my dad’s life—our big crazy family and the land he was born on. Once David and I took my parents to New York City. They’d never been and we wanted them to see it. My dad walked around looking up at the skyscrapers. He pointed to one and said, “You see that building? I wouldn’t live there if you gave it to me.” As far as he was concerned, he lived in the best place on earth with the best people. My cousin Tracy says, “Ma Williams knit her boys tight.” My dad loved his brothers. He liked nothing better than going out to breakfast with them and telling big stories to whoever would listen.
Perhaps the greatest joy of my dad’s life was being a grandpa. Not only to my son, but sort of an honorary grandpa to all the kids in our family. When Alex was little, it was hard to say which one of them enjoyed a trip to Toys R Us more. They wore matching Batman underwear, danced to The Jungle Book, and watched Scooby Doo. My dad was a big kid at heart. And after Alex was older, Daddy liked to give him life advice—mostly about women. Alex, your mom would never steer you wrong, and some of that advice should be taken with a huge grain of salt. My dad was an A Number One grandpa.
Hands down the biggest sorrow of my dad’s life was when Robin died. It simply broke his heart. I guess none of us really knows what heaven is like, but I can tell you what I hope it was like for my dad, and it was the last words I ever spoke to him. “Robin is waiting for you. Give her a big hug from me.” Enjoy your family reunion, Daddy. We’ll meet you on the other side.