Thanks, Daddy

WbsjrI want to tell you about my father today, as a way of saying thanks to him for all the ways he contributed to the person I am. It was strange to discover that he is an entry in Wikipedia, just as it was strange when that when he died his funeral was covered as a news event. You can find out more about his public life by Googling him: his political career, where he is buried, the sorts of things he for which he was commended. You can even find the eulogies given on that beautiful October day in 1997, when we all sat in the courtyard outside the Christopher Wren Building at the College of Knowledge in Virginia.
But really, if you want to read something about him that touches me, read what Cousin Jack had to say about him.
I want to tell you something else. I want to tell you about a Daddy who knew everything, who was the smartest and funniest man alive. I want to tell you about that funny-looking daddy whose ears stuck out, who took me on Saturdays to the National Gallery and the Smithsonian, who knew how to make a dinner festive, who knew how to tell a story, although you had to listen patiently due to his ponderously thick drawl.
I want to tell you that when he was chosen to narrate a Bicentennial Minute, we joked that it would take the whole 48 seconds just to say his name and the concluding phrase, "and that’s the way it was."
I want to tell you what he said about being the parent of an adopted child. "I like taking credit for the things you do well, and I don’t mind taking credit for the ones you don’t."
I want to tell you that he got impatient when the boat we were to take on the Rhine River in the summer of 1977 didn’t show up, and that he enjoyed charging dinner to the cruise line when they put us up in a hotel for the night. I want to tell you how he ordered a creme-de-menthe cordial for me, even though I 16 and too young for a cocktail at home.
I want to tell you that after my mother died of melanoma, he reflected on his life in a way I never would have imagined possible for a man of his generation and inclinations; he surprised me.
I want to tell you that even after she died, the most he learned how to do in the kitchen was make toast and boil water for instant coffee, and that I deem it a miracle that he never set the house on fire doing either.
I want to tell you that although he aged into a stout, curved-back old man in rumpled seersucker suits and bow ties, he taught me through the example of his life that absolutely everyone deserves absolutely the same rights and opportunities. I believe he learned that lesson in Methodist Sunday School. I believe he learned it and lived it and wanted me to live it, too. He typically didn’t say much about his feelings but finally told me he was proud of me when I started seminary.
I wish he could know the people my children are becoming.
I wish I could talk to him today and celebrate the 85th birthday that never came.
Thanks, Daddy, for all you were and all you are in my mind and in my heart.

18 thoughts on “Thanks, Daddy”

  1. What a lovely tribute. You were a lucky girl to have such a father.
    And, holy moly, your “Cousin Jack” is John Shelby Spong? Dang. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his books.

  2. Wow. What a wonderful, sweet post! I hope this doesn’t sound provincial of me, but whenever I hear someone is from the Commonwealth, I tend to have a good impression of them from the start.
    (And we also have at least one of your cousin’s books on our shelves.)

  3. So beautiful. I’m thinking that somewhere in the Great Other Place, your parents are smiling and very proud of you.

  4. Beautiful.
    P.S. All of a sudden, I’m horribly self-conscious about having quoted unknowingly quoted your cousin in my blog. Who knew?

  5. Thanks, y’all.
    Sheesh, Bemused, people are quoting him all the time! I’m used to it. And if it’s an ugly comment, I just click away to more friendly environs.

  6. I just realized who your Uncle was when I clicked on your link. Though I have read none of his books (yet), I knew his name right away!

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