I remember him making a valiant effort to be at every school event and piano recital that I participated in. When he wasn’t there, I bragged to the other kids that my dad was off saving lives.
I remember him only having to spank me once. I don’t remember what I did but I was more shocked by the fact that he hit me than by anything. I knew he loved me and that I had earned this punishment and that I never wanted it again.
I remember his reading to me all the time. The only stories I remember specifically were Little Monster’s Bedtime Book and the Chronicles of Narnia. Once a friend came over early for my birthday party and we were reading. She curled up on the other side of Dad and he read to both of us until the party started. She told me later she wished her dad would read to her and I realized I had something special. I was 7.
I remember falling asleep in the car on the way home from anywhere and waking up in his arms as he carried me inside. I loved it so much that I would sometimes pretend to be asleep just so he would carry me. I hated when I got too big for him to carry me anymore.
I remember him getting us up for school in the morning, flipping on the light in my room and telling me it was time to wake up. When I got downstairs, he’d usually have breakfast ready to go, either oatmeal or cereal or if we were really lucky, French toast. He’d go outside to warm up the car when it was cold outside so we didn’t have to shiver on the way to school. We’d listen to NPR and classical music on the way and he’d talk to us about the things going on. When we carpooled with the Kings, we listened to the kids’ station with silly goofy songs and I realized my dad wanted me to learn about the world around me and know about classical music.
I remember him driving us to school and listening to the announcement that Bill Clinton had been elected president and asking if Dad voted for him. He told me it wasn’t generally something a lot of people felt comfortable talking about, but no, he didn’t vote for him. He also pointed out that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t voted for him, he was still our president and thus deserving of our respect.
I remember hating playing the piano, but loving how proud it made Dad to see me playing in recitals and the goofy faces he’d make at me through the doors to the music room.
I remember playing two duets with him: one as an awkward adolescent and the other as a frustrated teenager. I never told him how much I valued that I alone of his children got to do that with him.
I remember as an older teen dreaming of weddings and happily ever afters asking what his favorite song was. We were listening to Natalie Cole’s album “Unforgettable, With Love” and he told me he really loved the song on that cd, Unforgettable and explained how Nat King Cole died and that Natalie had taken old recordings of her dad singing and had turned it into a duet. He thought about it for a bit and told me that his all time favorite, though, was The Way You Look Tonight. We danced to that at my wedding.
I remember when I was about 12 we were home alone, just the two of us, for a weekend. It didn’t happen often, so that was kind of special in itself. We went to bed early on Saturday because he was driving me out to Girl Scout camp in Sweetwater the next day. In the middle of the night, there was a loud crash that shook the whole house and woke us both up. I thought there’d been an earthquake or something but the big tree in the back had fallen over into the courtyard. It was like walking in a tree. Dad was relieved no one else was home because Caleb would have gotten scared and Mom would have been blocked in. I was just relieved it didn’t hit the house.
I remember several times being told I was his favorite. I always teased that Cari was the favorite because she was chosen and he got stuck with the rest of us.
I remember once my dad describing feeling real joy as he held one of his children moments after birth and my mom asking if that’s why he named her Joy. I wondered if secretly I’d been the favorite all along.
I remember being shocked when I saw him lying in a hospital bed all hooked up to wires when he had his brain aneurysms. I couldn’t believe this fragile body belonged to my dad. It never seemed very real to me that he could die. He was dad: he was going to be around forever.
I remember being frustrated that he wasn’t the same after and wishing he’d just go back to normal.
I remember being angry that I could only take two classes at Abilene High so that I could take care of Dad after school while Mom worked.
I remember feeling guilty at how relieved I was when other people stepped in and helped and feeling like I let Mom down because I didn’t help enough.
I remember taking racquetball as a PE course for distance learning and Dad doing that with me. I wasn’t very good because I was afraid of getting hit by the ball.
I remember taking physics in high school and absolutely hating it because I didn’t get it. Dad was frustrated with that since he loved physics so much and had advanced degrees in it. He would sit with me for hours and try to explain it and eventually I would get him to do the work for me. He’s the main reason I passed the class.
I remember him taking me on a real date when I was about 15. We went to the Olive Garden, we played putt-putt and we went to a movie. He told me I wasn’t a cheap date and that any guy who didn’t want to spend the money wasn’t worth my time.
I remember getting ready for the few dances I went to in high school and Dad saying ‘Wowwee!” every single time.
I remember how much he loved astronomy and how he tried to teach me about constellations. He would take me star gazing whenever there were meteor showers. We made it a semi-regular date and I’d make grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa and we’d sit on the car and look at the stars and talk. To this day, the only constellation I can find on a consistent basis is Orion.
I remember my senior prom and how excited Dad was that I had an actual date. He told me that if Charles knew anything about anything he’d bring me an orchid. Dad was so proud when Charles showed up with a beautiful purple orchid wrist corsage.
I remember him being proud of me when I graduated from high school, but that pride was tempered by anger at my cousin and my brother disappearing right after, causing us all to be delayed getting home.
I remember him trying to help me with my college math classes and finally accepting that I couldn’t do this advanced stuff, that my brain was better at the social studies than the sciences.
I remember him meeting my first boyfriend and telling Mom he was a fine young man.
I remember his disappointment when I broke up with that boyfriend.
I remember him trying to like the next guy I brought home and not succeeding.
I remember him helping Mom and her siblings pack up their parents’ house and grumbling at the stupid Christmas tree I wanted so much, but bringing it along just because I wanted it.
I remember graduating from college and his pride that I had done it and with some honors.
I remember his frustration when they called me Talitha Jane.
I remember him helping me move to Austin. He grumbled about the tree again. He helped move the furniture out of the house in Lubbock and into the apartment in Austin. I remember dealing with two flat tires and the hurt of my roommates seemingly not caring that I was leaving, but knowing that my dad would always be there for me.
I remember Dad was always there when I moved: into the house in Lubbock, to the apartment in Austin, to the first apartment in Dallas, across the complex to the second Dallas apartment, and to the house in Carrollton. He grumbled about the Christmas tree every time and always offered to throw it away for me.
I remember the way he would say “Choooclaaate.”
I remember him telling me not to smile or my face would crack into a million pieces and how 99% of the time I smiled.
I remember he called me Tali-poo and Brown Crested Speckled Thumb Sucker.
I remember getting in trouble on our family trip to the four corners and my punishment was having to sit up in the front with Dad overnight and keep him awake. We watched the sunrise over the desert and it was beautiful. He asked me to write him a poem about it and I did. I'm sure there's a copy of it somewhere.
I remember how much he and Tigger hated one another.
I remember him repeatedly telling me it wasn’t too late to back out, that they loved Austin but they loved me more and I should do what was right for me.
I remember his pride and loving support as we planned the wedding and I struggled with work stuff.
I remember being sick the week before the wedding and him driving to get me milkshakes every day because it was the only thing I wanted and the only thing that tasted good. He frequently got the wrong thing, but I loved it because I knew he did it for me.
I remember his pride as he came to get me to walk down the aisle.
I remember every time I cut my hair for Locks of Love he would frown. He loved my hair long but would always tell me how proud he was of me for donating my hair to others.
I remember one last “Wow!” kiss before getting married.
I remember him asking me if I liked chicken and when I asked why, he stuck out his arm and said “Take a wing.”
I remember writing my Daddy Folio letter and agonizing over it for a couple months, wanting to get the words just right.
I remember him blessing me at my wedding, though I was too emotional to really hear the words.
I remember him holding me tightly as we danced at the reception, like he didn’t want to let me go.
I remember waffling between several songs for our dance and settling on his favorite.
I remember telling him I didn’t have a gift for his birthday, but that I wanted to go bowling with him and him telling me his knees were too far gone for that anymore.
I remember asking what he wanted for Christmas this year and him telling me he just wanted everyone there. I told him this Christmas was with the Mullins but that next year would be with the Walkes and I’d most likely be pregnant. He was indignant that my child’s first Christmas would be with his OTHER grandparents and not him.
I remember my brother asking me if I was sitting down and then telling me our father had died. I didn’t believe him and he had to repeat it before my mom finally came on, sobbing, and telling me he was gone. It’s still not real.
I remember the last time I saw him, cold and still and looking completely surprised. I lay across his chest and wished that he’d hug me back.
I remember Rosetta holding my hand and telling me how he would talk about me all the time and how proud and excited he was about what I was doing with my life and how when I was little, he’d always tell her to make sure I ate when he dropped me off at her house in the mornings.
I remember being incredibly angry when Luke sat in Dad’s chair that night. He wasn’t family and he was intruding.
I remember agreeing with my sister when she said he was a beautiful man and deserved beautiful flowers.
I remember crying as I realized he would never play Fur Elise again and wanting to play it for him one last time.
I remember being amazed at how I didn’t cry during my eulogy and that I could get through my piano pieces and thinking “I don’t want to play any more after this.”
I remember being angry that outsiders to the family were taking his belongings. I wanted to rip the owls and everything out of their hands and scream that they didn’t deserve this and they should get the hell out of my father’s house.
I remember the first time it hit me that my father would never see my children and how much I cried that they’d never have their granddad read them a story.
I remember the last time I held him on this earth. I marveled at how greasy the ashes were and how much, and at the same time how little, there were. I cried as I let the last of his ashes be washed from my hands and wished I was hugging him instead.
I remember seeing my niece being born and thinking “She’s late because he wasn’t ready to let her go yet.” I was angry again that she’d never get to know him.
I remember the regret hitting me that I’d never played the Moonlight Sonata for him and that he never knew how much I loved playing for him.
I remember thinking this would make me feel better instead of making me hurt more.
Added in 2017:
I remember how exhausted and sore and overwhelmed I was with Asher as a newborn and how much I wished my Daddy was there to give me a helping hand.
I remember how that happened again when I was overwhelmed with two little boys and one of them needed hospitalization when his little brother was only 3 months old.
I remember when we got Eden's diagnosis wishing he was there to hold my hand while Mom held the other one.
I remember each birth feeling all over again that he would have been so excited to be there.
I remember how much he loved learning whenever Asher asks a "question about life."
I remember how much he loved to read to his grandkids every time I see Papa read to them or hear them demanding at least 3 books from Austin every night.
I remember how helpful he was to my brothers with their kids whenever Papa Bob is just as helpful with mine.
I remember how much I loved him and how much he meant to me when I see how my kids "other" grandfathers have stepped in to fill the void he left behind.
I've finally gotten to the point where it's more bittersweet than bitter. Yes, there are still tears. Yes, there is still that ache and that dismay and even sometimes that anger, but it's better. It helps that Allen is SUCH a present grandfather. Eden changed his name to PopPop and he's going with it. It may have just been for Memorial Day weekend, but if it's a permanent change, he's fine with it, just like Dad would have been. It also helps that Bob is so eager to be helpful and useful he's almost TOO much at times (and I mean that in a good way). Picking up Asher from school, taking the boys to McDonald's so I can get a break, rewarding them when they've done well and giving them a talking to when they haven't. He's relaxed into his role as their grandfather on my side of the family, and I'm thankful for that.
Some days are hard. Some days are easy. It's just the way life goes.