Willie Nelson made these words famous crooning about all the girls who had been in and out of his life for various purposes (some honorable, some not so much) and for varying lengths of time. Father’s Day is quickly approaching so I’d like to share about the men who have deeply impacted and influenced my life.
Tomorrow you will be treated to a special guest blogger – a dear friend of mine and former co-worker who, in my humble (but accurate) opinion, ought to be famously famous and hangin’ out on top of the best seller list for months at a time. But I guess if those things were true about him, I wouldn’t know him as a friend. He is as “Southern gentleman” as they come, possesses a wonderfully salty personality complimented by a heavy shot of Tabasco, and shares Biblical truths with deeply profound insight. Not to mention he’s crazy in love with his wife and over the moon for his kids. I’m confident you will be delighted by tomorrow’s blog featuring Jason Brooks. But for now, I’d like to give you my perspective on some pretty incredible men…here they are:
My first crush: I was in Kindergarten and his name was Bruce. I really can’t tell you much more about him except to say I have warm memories of my 5-year-old smile, happily swinging my shoulders back and forth, dreamily fantasizing that he was crushing on me, too. Unfortunately, even among our small Kindergarten class of boys and girls, I’m fairly confident he didn’t know I was alive.
David Cassidy, lead singer for the Partridge Family. I thought he looked like the older, more grown-up version of my brother, and I absolutely adored my brother (more about him later). I knew every word to every song, every facial expression, and probably the pattern on every 70s-inspired shirt he wore. Driving down the interstate one day, my Dad pointed out that their tour bus was beside us. It was destiny! I just knew that David Cassidy would look out his window, see the girl (literally – I think I was 10) of his dreams and serenade me into the gorgeous Eastern sunset. Alas, the old man driving the bus was not influenced by my frantic waving or my Dad’s honking and did not sense the urgency of waking my prince from his slumber somewhere in the back of the bus. And down the highway he went…
My Grandfathers, PawPaw and PaPa. PawPaw was my Dad’s dad and PaPa was my mother’s. PawPaw was very much like a piece of M&Ms candy: crusty and a little hard on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. He bragged that I was the only one of his grandchildren he ever changed a diaper for. PawPaw was a WWII vet, a self made man, and an expert gardener. He graciously allotted a small area of his massive back yard for a swing set where my cousins and I spent many hours sliding, swinging, and teeter-tottering on summer days while he and my grandmother harvested summer vegetables and fruits. He was a collector of all things Coca-Cola, loved to go antique shopping, and spoiled my grandmother. I was angry with him when he re-married quickly after my Grandmother died and it was PawPaw who first taught me that no one can dictate how another person grieves. You see, my Grandmother died of Alzheimer’s and he had grieved the loss of the woman he knew and loved for so long that by the time she physically died, he simply moved through the steps of her funeral and burial. I didn’t like being angry at him. I felt as if I were somehow betraying him, but it was driven by the sense that he had betrayed my Grammie. It didn’t last long. The first time I met his new wife and saw that big Andy Taylor smile on his face, all was forgiven. He was a good man and I loved him.
I loved both my Grandfathers. But my PaPa and I shared something special. I don’t know why, I don’t even know how to describe it. It simply was. He was a perfect balance of strong and tender. An unexpected quick wit, he could make us laugh about anything. I remember one summer when the five granddaughters enjoyed an extended stay with him and my Grandmother. Every morning started out around the breakfast table on our knees. We were all too young to appreciate the prayers he prayed over us, but the love that motivated those prayers was undeniable. PaPa had a way of making each one of us believe that we were his favorite. He loved ‘his girls’ and told us at every opportunity. He approached the pulpit before every sermon with a sense of deep gratitude that he had been given the privilege and calling to impact other people’s lives with the grace of God. Losing him to cancer was almost more than any of us could bear. PaPa lived with dignity and showed us how to die with the same. He ran his race well and finished strong, telling everyone his greatest regret was being forced to leave his family. He loved us hard and I miss him every day.
My Dad. He was raised ‘Bobby’, a beautiful boy with snow white hair (even then) and crystal blue eyes. My Mom started calling him ‘Bob’ when they began dating and I’ve heard him called several nicknames over the years, Father Time and Mr. C. among others. He is the strongest man I’ve ever known. Period. I loved crawling up in his lap as a little girl and remember many vacations being launched into what felt like outer space as he threw me across the pool. I was his shadow, following him around as close as a second skin any time he was home. He and my Mom bought me a beat up old baby grand piano that he lovingly restored to a work of art. My Dad is not openly affectionate but one look in those pools of blue and there is no question about his love. On the flip side, those same eyes could make my blood run cold when I knew I’d disobeyed or disappointed him. And I returned the flash of lightning only once, when he inadvertently referred to someone else by my nickname, ‘Sweetie’. No words necessary. That is one mistake made only once. My knight in shining armor, my manager, the calm waters in my sometimes turbulent life, my hero. My Dad.
My Brother. I think I must have loved him even before I was born. When we were young I told him I wanted to marry him. “We can’t get married,” he flatly replied. “We’ll have messed up babies!” My solution was simple. “We don’t have to have babies. I just want to marry you.” Yes, we had our share of fusses and fights but nobody, and I mean nobody, other than him dared to mess with me. We had daring (and often dangerous) adventures throughout high school that involved fast cars, unchaperoned parties, and the Chattahoochee River (details intentionally omitted). He moved home to Georgia from South Carolina when I was diagnosed with cancer and dedicated a tattoo on his right arm to my battle. It is a sunset with the Chinese symbols representing, “Dawn, my bravest sister.” No matter how long between phone calls, emails, or visits, I know we will always pick up where we left off. He is a terrific uncle to my kids and one of my greatest sources of encouragement.
My Husband. I was a tough cookie when Richard and I began dating. Divorced and a single mom, I was bound and determined not to get hurt again. Richard was patient, funny, a great debater, and knew the way to my heart was through my son, Alex. After four years of dating (some great dates, some ‘Hell nights’ as we refer to them now), we married on a hot and humid August evening. After a North/South honeymoon to New York City and Charleston, we woke up Saturday morning to Alex climbing up in the bed and asking why Richard was there. “Remember Mommy and I got married last week?” Alex propped himself up on his elbows, rested them on Richard’s chest and asked, “Does that mean I can call you Dad now?” Yep. I got a winner. Two houses, more cars than I can remember, five dogs, one lizard, and two more children later, we have had our share of good and bad times. Richard married me for “better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” He has lived up to his commitment. We have been better and we have been worse, we have been poorer and by contrast there have been seasons of richness. And he was the rock by my side in sickness. Every day, sometimes moment by moment, he cared for me. He handled the house, the children, drove me to endless doctor appointments, and sat beside me for every doctor’s appointment and chemo treatment. We may never have one of those marriages that everyone looks on and says, “Oh, we want to be like them” but we are in it to win it.
Happy Father’s Day.