Thought I would post about my dad today since Father’s Day is coming up.  I think it would be a nice way to honor him and remember the man he was.

My dad was the youngest of five children, and the youngest of twins.  His father was quite a bit older than his mother, and he suffered a stroke and was bedridden when my grandma Lorraine was pregnant with my dad and his brother.  So, along with twins, Wesley and Presley (my dad), she had a bedridden husband and three other children to take care of.  My dad had two older sisters, Mary & Anna Mae and an older brother, James (Sonny).  His father died when he was three years old.  I know my grandmother had her hands full.  She was a school cafeteria cook.  The kids looked out for one another, and I know when my dad’s sister Anna Mae got married, they helped raise my dad & Wesley.  Dad told stories about being a kid and things he did at Anna Mae’s house.  I don’t remember a lot about him talking about his childhood.  I do know that he learned the value of hard work and family.  I also know that he must have had pain from growing up without a dad.  He loved his mother very much.

I was born when my dad was about 25 years old.  He and my mom got married when she was a senior in High school.  February 1965.  I came along in October 1968.  My parents had just bought the house on Veyda before I was born.  My dad was an electrician and worked for Rural Electric Co-op.  My dad loved country music – especially Hee Haw, he loved grilling – charcoal from Kenwood was the only way he did it – well done.  He was offended if you wanted steak sauce!  He loved western movies – I remember watching Bonanza with him when I was a kid.  He was loyal to his work – he worked the same job for 40 years and was to retire in June of 2004.  Growing up, I never saw him on the weekends or after work that he didn’t have a beer in his hand.   Coors was his choice until my parents divorced and budget restraints caused him to switch to Schaeffers.  He also smoked – Pall Mall Golds.  I don’t know how much as in packs per day, but I do know he started smoking when he was about 15 years old.  He did tell a story about falling through the ceiling of Anna Mae’s kitchen because he was hiding in the attic smoking.  Dad’s drinking was what caused my parents divorce.   When my brother and I were little, my mom collected pop bottles & mowed yards to have money when my dad was spending it on beer.  I also remember that most Father’s Days and birthdays my mom would either get him a case of beer or carton of cigarettes and that’s what Kirk & I gave him.   I must have ridden millions of miles in the car or truck with my dad and an open container of beer – Sunday drives, vacations, everywhere.  He never in his life had a DUI.  What are the odds?!  As a child, I spent hours with him at the Ranch House Tavern just West of Pryor next to the skating rink.  Never thought a thing of it.  I remember Betty & Oak who ran the place, the shuffleboard table, the pool table and the juke box.  I remember washing dishes at about four years of age behind the counter.  I remember that being one of the first jobs ever that I thought I would want.  I really had a happy childhood.  My dad was a sweet bear of a man, easygoing, didn’t get worked up about much, he just drank and smoked – mostly I think to cover up some pain, but he didn’t talk about it, so that’s just my theory.

When I was thirteen, my parents divorced.  I remember my dad telling us goodbye when he was moving out to stay with Anna Mae.  He had his things packed in paper sacks, and he came into Kirk’s room where we were.  He cried when he told us goodbye.  It was one of only two times when I saw him cry.  The second time was when my dog Cocoa had gotten run over and we had to put her down.  The divorce was devastating to him and I hated visiting the house because it was empty and he was drinking heavily.  He always went to bed early and woke up at dawn.  Sometimes now when I can’t sleep, I wonder if I’m turning into him.  Well, within six months, both parents were living with new “loves”, and life as I knew it was never the same.  There were step siblings, another divorce, continued drinking and smoking, and lots of living out of an overnight case.  From the time I was thirteen till I was married, I was a gypsy.

I know that about six months or so before I got married, my dad quit drinking.  I don’t really know why.  I do know it bothered my step mom and caused problems in their marriage.  He quit on his own, without AA, without church, without any help that I know of.  I know that took an inner strength that I didn’t know he had, but I know now that it is in me as well.  As happy as I was that he wasn’t drinking anymore, I hated it that he couldn’t have done it 10 years earlier and saved his marriage to my mom.  He drank diet cola for the rest of his life and continued to smoke.

I can’t say that I was close to my dad.  He was always closer to my step siblings – funny how that happens – the new wife and her family come first.  It was always painful to be with him on holidays because my step mom’s family and kids were at “home” and I was a visitor.  That feeling never left.  There were a few visits to me when kids were born, once when his brother came to Oklahoma and wanted to see the bombing memorial, and maybe for a kids birthday or two.  Not many though.  Visits to him were sporadic – most times, my stepmom would be “sick” and stay in her room when we came to visit.  Occasionally we would go out to dinner together.  Once, before we had kids, we went to Branson to stay in my dad’s timeshare.  It was a fun trip, and I have lots of good memories – I can’t visit Silver Dollar City without remembering my dad.

Dad’s work brought him to OKC several times in the last few years of his life.  He would always come over or take us to dinner when he came up.  One of the last times he came, I was pregnant with Sophia and he helped us with the wiring in our patio room.  I did talk to him and asked questions about his mom and how she did it with so many kids to take care of and not many modern conveniences.  I know he was proud of me and the life I had.  When Sophia was three months old, I got the call.  It was strange in so many ways, like most conversations I ever had with my step mother, you never quite knew what she was talking about or who she was talking about.  I know they were in shock too, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for them, but the call was to ask me to come for his birthday.  They were having a small get together and he wanted me to be there.  He had gotten some bad news from the doctor.  Aside from him having angioplasty when Grant was a newborn, I never remember him being sick.  He had a lump come up on his ribs on his back, and it was lung cancer that had eaten into his bones.  My dad and stepmom were in great denial.  He was planning to take chemo, and he was only hearing the best prognosis.  His doctor had told him he might have two years.  Chemo was tough on him.  He lost his hair and was incredibly sick with it.  I didn’t see him from Feb to the end of March, and was shocked at how much he had changed.  When I saw him in April, it was shocking.  The first week of May, I got a call that he was on a ventilator in Tulsa.  By the time I got my kids taken care of and got there, it was evening.  He was awake and communicating the best he could.  He could write a note and there was a chart that helped him tell us what he needed.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to see.  I think the only thing more difficult would be seeing one of my children or my husband in that situation.  We mostly just held his hand and told him we loved him.  We prayed for him before we left the hospital, and he asked for the pen to write us a note.  It read “I know the Lord as my Saviour“.  The greatest gift I could have been given was that answered prayer.  My dad made it about 18 more days after that.  He died May 20th 2003, the day after my great grandma Ragsdale died, and the day before my brother turned 31.  He was 61 and died a month before he was to retire.  I wasn’t with him when he died, but I will be with him again in heaven and I will miss him every day till then.  I take great comfort in knowing he is in heaven.

I am thankful to have had a father like him.  He had so many wonderful qualities, and I think I’m more like him than I would have ever wanted to be growing up.  I see glimpses of him in my own children, especially Luke, whom he never got to see.  They look so much alike and I think Dad would have been so proud of him.  I miss him so much on his birthday, Father’s day, my birthday.  I miss him when we are doing electrical work on our old house, when we go to see Christmas lights, when we go to Silver Dollar City, when I hear Buck Owens, Barbara Mandrell, or Marty Robbins on the radio, when I see a REC truck, when I wake up at 4:00am, and when I see someone who looks like him.   I am proud to be his daughter.

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