Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

When I was very small my father would hold out one finger for me to grip when we walked together. His hands were huge, and somewhat legendary in my little town. To this day kids who were coached by Papa will bump into myself or my brothers and recall how "Mister O" would catch bumblebees or hornets and hold them by their wings. His fingers, big as sausages, were so calloused and tough the bee would struggle, trying to get its stinger through the outer husk of his thumb and forefinger to absolutely no avail. After freaking all the kids out he'd laugh and release it.

They loved him.

I loved him too, of course, and always will. I was a little bit jealous of the other children he coached. Even as a girl I knew that they got the cream off the top of him-- never having to face his anger or disappointment, always getting the praise and encouragement. By the time I was old enough to realize how those "bad" parts were most likely doing me some good I was also old enough to realize the jealousy was silly at best; petty at worst. And no matter how much of him those other children stole, that finger-- the same finger he'd point at me when I'd strayed-- was all mine.

There would be new children in his life, even more dear. When my brothers began to have kids I saw a glimmer of that magic-- an incredible swell of protective fierceness, a wonder of absolute and unconditional love. With these tiny hands I was willing to share that finger... and offer my own. Now as the two youngest grandchildren have gone off to school there are crosswalks and sidewalks to navigate, clammy digits curled around larger ones.

My father is retired now. He still has traces of his southern accent, Virginia smoke curling around the edges of his speech. When my nephew announced, just the other day, that Papa didn't work in "that place anymore cuz he's retarded," I knew he was just pronouncing the word the way his grandfather does.

My retar-- err-- retired father spends more time with these last two little ones-- the sons of his youngest son-- than anyone else.

This past week Papa tried to show off for one of the kids. He grabbed a bumblebee round and plump as a grape by the wings and showed it proudly to his grandson. It stung him almost immediately.

Not as tough as he used to be. The callouses have worn thin. But his finger is still just right for holding on. And these days, as I watch him struggle up a flight of stairs, or puff a good bit more than he used to lifting some vaguely domestic weight, I marvel at how anyone can change so much without losing the core of stone that has always defined him. When all is said and done he's really the same solid, honest, good man he was. A little softer, these days... but so are the smaller fingers reaching for his larger one.

Happy Father's Day, Papa.


  1. That's beautiful, Chrissy.

  2. How poignant. Thank you for sharing. I especially liked the Virginia smoke in his speech.

  3. Aw, thats so nice, Chrissy.

  4. That's beautiful.

    My dad is larger-than-life in a lot of ways. He was and is unfailing in his lof and support, but to me the most valuable thing he gave me was self esteem. I learned the value of myself because he valued us.

    Thanks, Dad.

  5. Anonymous8:38 PM

    That is wonderful.

    My dad is actually my step dad. He was brave and courageous (possibley a little crazy) to marry my mother. Mom had three girls and my dad did not have any children.

    As the youngest, I did not understand. I had a dad, I did not need or want, another one.

    As I grew up, I realized just how special he is. Taking all of us in stride, giving a guiding hand without appearing to push. He taught me how to dance for my first school dance, taught me to take life in stride, never to give up, and reach for my dreams. He walked me down the isle and gave me away.

    Later down the road, he helped my mother when she battled Cancer. Never leaving her side. He was strong for her, for us, and never shown his own fear.

    We are very lucky to have him in our lives, and I am PROUD to call him my father.

    Love you dad,

  6. Thanks gang. He's supposed to be golfing today but it's raining. I hope the guys dreamed up a cool alternative. LOL

  7. What a lovely tribute to your dad, Chrissy. My own father was a good ole boy from the south, too.

    My dad passed away ten years ago and I miss him still. Probably always will...but the lessons he taught me, to respect individual rights, to protect those weaker, to help those less fortunate, and to stand up for what I believe in...those lessons will last a lifetime, as will the love.


  8. Great post, Chrissy,

    I also have a great dad. I know my four siblings and I will find it incredibly scary when he starts to fail because he's always been a bedrock for us.


  9. Are you all conspiring to make me cry?

    I adopted a Dad when I was 32. He was good natured about it, luckily. So was his wife, whom I call mom even though she's far too young to have birthed me. After 32 years of doing without, I guess I just finally needed one.

    His last name is Hayes, by the way. My pen name is a tribute to them both.

  10. Lovely post--I love reading yours. They're always so beautiful.