Sunday, May 4, 2014


My father passed a month ago today. This is what I said at his funeral.

Here is a short list of things I got from my father:

1. Blue Eyes.

2. Angiomas.
Tiny red dots on the skin. My sister Kellie has them, too.

3. A dry sense of humor, rich in sarcasm and irony.
We all have it. Ask brother-in-law Leroy.

4. Being a crossword puzzle nerd.
Actually, that’s something that both grandmothers loved, too. So I come by it honestly from multiple directions.

5. A love of Star Trek, Star Wars, and science fiction in general.

We did not ask him to take us to see Star Wars or the first Star Trek movie – he took us with him when *he* went to see them.

6. Baseball.
He took me to my first Braves game soon after they came to town – I seem to remember it was right around my first grade year, so that would have been around 1967 or 1968. I never quite picked up the football/basketball/hockey/whatever bug, but baseball has stuck with me. Go Braves. Go Dores.

7. A love of the past.
It’s no coincidence that I majored in anthropology and considered archaeology as a profession. He enjoyed reading about history, and vacations frequently included prowling old cemeteries.

8. A capacity to work long hours.
Raising four kids on a fireman’s salary wasn’t the easiest task. A lot of you know that until he got to up in rank, he always worked second jobs. The fruit of that was not only having everything we needed (if not everything we wanted), but the freedom to enjoy restaurant meals, vacations, and the like. We ate our share of Spam and even meatless meals at times, but we always had enough.

9. An appreciation of a good paint job.

I did not inherit the ability to DO a good paint job, but thanks to watching him paint a million rooms (ours and other people’s), I know what one is supposed to look like. To this day I marvel at his ability to paint a straight line where ceiling met wall or on window grills without a scrap of protective tape. 

10. A taste for culinary adventure.
We weren’t epicures – we ate basic Southern classics with the usual amount of 70s convenience food sprinkled in. We did, however, eat out a fair amount, and tried new things. One day Dad brought home a “recipe” from a fellow fireman – it was an exotic treat called “nachos.” These were tortilla chips from a box, topped with a chunk of cheddar cheese and a slice of pickled jalapeno, then broiled. This was our introduction to Mexican-American food, long before anyone else we knew had even heard of it. Before long we were making our own tacos from Old El Paso kits and traveling up to Northlake Mall to go to El Chico, because you couldn’t get Mexican food on our side of town. We were quite cutting edge.

11. A generosity of spirit.
I actually fail at this more than I succeed, but I try. He, and Mama, were always doing things for other people, whether it was Mama baking the 9 billionth batch of cupcakes for PTA or the fire station, or them helping an elderly couple when they had trouble doing for themselves. The door to our house was always open to any random whoever we dragged home, and there was always room for another chair at the table. 

12. The idea that girls could do the same things that boys did.
Being raised in the 60s and 70s, I was still subject to lots of cultural norms about what girls should and shouldn’t do. We were supposed to grow up to be secretaries and nurses and teachers, if we had jobs at all. We played with dolls and Easy-Bake Ovens. We didn’t play catch. As late as my 6th grade year, girls’ basketball in Georgia was still played half-court because we delicate girls just weren’t up to the task of running the full length of the court.

If you asked Dad if he was a feminist, he would probably have given you the stink-eye. And yes, I loved my Barbies and my Easy-Bake Oven. But I also loved when we played softball in the yard, or went fishing. He took me along to trim hedges and cut grass on his landscaping jobs. I “caddied” for him when he played golf. He took me to Braves games, and taught me what he was learning in his psychology and algebra classes when he went to Clayton Junior College as an adult.

Dad never treated me like a substitute son, or tried to make me a tomboy. He simply included me in whatever he was doing as a matter of course.

By the same token, he could type, and cook, and did the shopping and housework when he was off and Mama was at work. He was a thoroughly progressive, modern man. This wasn’t something that was ever really discussed, and wasn’t political in the least. It was simply the daily reality of the family getting on with getting on.

I could go on. And, of course, I could make a parallel list of things I got from Mama. But, in many ways, I am my Daddy’s little girl, and this little girl is going to miss her Daddy.


Alexandra Payne said...

Beautiful, Tracey. Thank you for sharing your sweet memories and kind words about your father. He sounds like he was a rare and wonderful kind of human being. The kind our world could use a whole lot more of these days.

TLF said...

Thanks, I appreciate the kind words. Yes, he was a good 'un. :)

Lesley Eats said...

I hope it's okay to write that it's better to have had a great dad and lost than to never have had a dad at all. Because that's a lot of people, myself included. :)

TLF said...

Amen. :)