It's one of two photos I have with my father in them. It was taken in 1974, give or take a year, and I was 5 years old. Four years later my daddy was dead.
Thoughts of Daddy floated around in my head for years. I remember when the sound of his voice began to fade from my memory and discovering that the one recording of him speaking was lost in the theft of a "boombox." My dad's mom, Mom Mom to me and Mom Beulah to most, was a steadfast presence in my life as was his dad, Pop Pop. So when thoughts of that side of the family enter my head the first person I think about is Mom Mom who died in her 80s during the late '90s, early 00s. Through her that side of my family was kept alive, my dad's memory never too far in the background.
Just looking at that photograph was ... surreal.
I remember how he looked, the feel of his soft, wavy hair and his coarse mustache and scratchy face that he enjoyed scrapping across my cheek if I got too close. When he was home and ready to relax in the evening he would push himself back in his recliner under the pretense of watching television. We all knew he'd be asleep in a matter of minutes, but it didn't prevent me from sitting right at his feet, stealing peeks of him behind me, waiting for him to wake up or to watch TV with me. I'd quietly play nearby, wanting to be right next to my daddy.
Daddy, or Georgie - my mom's name for him, was a cross country truck driver. He loved the freedom of the open road and was out of town quite often. When he was in town I'd go with him to the shop where he and another man would work on their trucks, and possibly other vehicles. I didn't notice because I was just happy to be right near my daddy. He'd admonish me to stay outta the grease, don't get dirty, stay away from the dog, the street and don't go behind the building. Of course, I had to get a little greasy because how am I going to experiment with the nasty mechanic's soap in the bathroom if I don't have grease on my hands. Those small moment with my dad turned me into a lover of big trucks and oh how I wanted to go on the road with him. Despite tears and begging it never happened. Surprising, huh? (Yes, a joke.) I often wonder if I'd gotten the chance had he lived and I'd been older.
I wonder a lot about what life would have been like had my Daddy not died. Funny though, the thing that he loved (besides his family) the most ended up being the death of him. During a cross country delivery my dad's truck had a blow out, he lost control and the truck flipped over into a ditch. The gigantic steering wheel crushed into his gut. It's what I've been told. They also told me that my daddy looked none worse for the wear, but he was hurt internally. They say he "probably" would have not walked had he lived. I always wondered if that was meant to make me feel better. Having my daddy was the important part; I didn't care if he couldn't walk. I loved him cause he was daddy.
That photo, seeing it today... (update: I'd originally shared our 70s family photo with you, but my mother does not want her image - regardless of what year - "out on the Internet.") I was able to capture the snippets of each of us: me, my big brother and my dad.
My finger slid across the photo almost hesitantly, and I felt trepidation about looking directly at his image to the right. Avoiding his eyes and the standard expression. I didn't know whether I would smile or bust out in a nasty cry especially after the arduous day I've had.
Looking at that picture no one would guess that my dad was a happy-go-lucky kinda guy. He was always joking, laughing and rooms would brighten when he entered. Everyone loved George. One would think that's just a childhood memory and surely he wasn't that kinda guy. I've heard cousins, old church members, friends from the past, his mom, etc., talk about that guy. Always with a ready smile and willing to lend a helping hand.
What would daddy think about my multiple myeloma and the other autoimmune diseases I'm fighting? What would he do, say about this cancer fight? What would he have said about me going into the military in 1988?
There are a lot of "what ifs" and "I wishes" when it comes to thoughts of him. It seems like I'd pushed back a lot of the thoughts over the years to be replaced by life and other family member's death. Right after him, his grandparents died a year a part. That was three close family members in three years. Then I lose his dad, my Pop Pop, and finally his mom. Mom Mom Beulah. My mind tried to hold onto the stories I've heard about that side of the family. About my great great grandparents, about my grandmother's life and what Mom Mom could remember about daddy as a boy.
The memories will come back. My thoughts and feelings surrounding losing my dad at such a young age may return. The photo, even in its small presence, will have a big impact for quite awhile. I don't mind... it's probably necessary for personal growth. Always a reason, right?