|Daddy with his grand-girls, newborn Lily, Rachel, and Ava-Grace|
He lives about five hours away, and he was here after our newest, Lily Catherine, was born in the spring. He turned 69 this past week, and I enjoyed hearing him talking on the phone for what seemed like forever to our two oldest, ages 5 and 3.
He still works full-time because Bowater laid him off at Christmas 1997 after 27 years of loyalty, and, conveniently for them, he lost a lot of his retirement. But he's never sounded bitter about it. These days he helps manage a saw mill in Hodges, SC, producing furniture-grade lumber that gets shipped to the North Carolina furniture market.
Every Saturday night growing up, Daddy tried to make sure our family had steak off the charcoal grill. Sometimes when times were not the best we had grilled chicken or grilled hamburger, but he always wanted to grill us steaks.
Along with the steaks, we watched Charles Stanley on WGGS-TV Channel 16, at 6pm. This was back in the days when you had to walk over to the TV and turn the channel on the set and arrange the antenna in such a way that you minimized the fuzz on the screen.
We would eat steak, and Charles Stanley would preach. Good days.
Daddy taught me how to grill a steak over charcoal, and he was a grilling purist. There never were any gas cylinders in our house. Whenever I grill or smoke some meat, I enjoy it when the cooking produces a good smoke. It's a comforting smell for me, because the smell puts me back on Daddy's back porch with him grilling, sitting with him and talking and laughing and waiting for Steak and Stanley.
It's in these days of working long hours, trying to be a good husband, and figure out this daddy-ing thing myself that I am really missing my Daddy. (And I am not nearly as good a daddy to my kids as he was to me. I'm selfish. He never was.) He can't come see us because of his work (the saw mill only takes vacation the week of the Fourth), and his knees hurt him to ride so far, too.
I can't really go to see him. Pastoring is presence-intensive. You have to be around to do the job, because you get calls, and sometimes it seems they come whenever you plan to do something like go see your Daddy. It's been nearly a year since we've been to Clinton.
Yesterday I stood with a man in an ICU in Wilson, NC, while he watched his daddy dying. The effects of death were taking hold on his body, and I wondered what kind of relationship they had had during the years.
I had a good one. My Daddy is the best, most unselfish, most giving man I know in this old world.
And today I'm missing him a little bit more than usual.