I hear the train a comin’ It’s rollin’ ’round the bend, And I ain’t seen the sunshine, Since, I don’t know when,
from Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash
In early 2014, after we decided on a house and our offer was accepted, my husband looked on Google Maps and saw that the train runs very near our house. He was worried this was going to be a problem, but, I like it. I don’t know what it is, but I enjoy hearing the whistle blow, which it does 4-5 times a day. I think if I could get through the brush and woods on the other side of our back fence I would be right at the tracks.
My last train ride was in 1996, the day my father died. Our van was in the shop and it was the only way I could get back to see him. My brother picked me up at the train station and drove me to our parent’s house. That night as I sat with him his breathing became labored. I had to wake my mom from what was probably her first peaceful sleep in weeks. As she held his hand and I held her, he left us. And even though the lonely train whistle often reminds me of that night, it also reminds me that life is going on all around me. Trains and planes and cars are taking people back and forth everyday here this little corner of Alabama and all over the wide world. I am just a speck.
“I loved photography for the same reason I loved baseball. Because Dad did.” – Lassoing the Sun by Mark Woods
This made me think, are there things I love because Dad did? I suppose there are things I like and things I do and choices I’ve made along the way because of him. I was born in Athens, Georgia and into this family that has perpetually rooted for the Georgia Bulldogs. So, I’ve always considered myself a fan, though it’s laughable to call me a fan of any football team. Dad loved music and so do I, though I can’t say he influenced my choices of musical styles.
Dad’s work ethic was an example to me and I think it had a lot to do with my educational goals when I first went off to college. I majored in marketing with an eye on fashion merchandising. Dad didn’t ever push me into it, but he was clear with his desire for me to get a college education, something he never had. He explained to me the changes in the workplace and how, in his later years, he couldn’t hire anyone without a degree. How I wish he had been there when I finally graduated with a degree in Elementary Education.
Dad was also a wordsmith of sorts. He loved to use big words. He admitted to having poor handwriting and spelling skills; he said that’s what secretaries were for. He also loved to make up words, specifically names for us kids and then the grandkids. Maybe I somehow absorbed his love of words.
Like Woods, I love photography and I like baseball. I don’t know where exactly my love of taking pictures came from, but it has evolved greatly in recent years. My enjoyment of baseball totally came from my husband.
All this brings me to say, I’m glad for the glimpses of Dad that show up in me on occasion. The wordplay, the sense of honesty, the sense of humor. Thanks, Dad.
“I learned much later – after he was dead, in fact, the time when we so often learn fundamental things about our parents…” – from One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
Why is it it takes so long sometimes for us to understand each other? Why didn’t I understand as a teenager that everything Dad threatened was not actually what he would do? I didn’t appreciate what a challenging task he faced in trying to parent when he barely remembered his own father. I didn’t appreciate how difficult it must have been to be a good father when he’d been brought up without one. It must have been especially hard to know what to do with me, his only girl. I can’t remember him saying “I love you,” until after I started college.
I didn’t realize how much he wanted me to succeed. He supported my desire to go to college and I wanted to follow in his footsteps, so I majored in marketing. He didn’t say a lot when I got engaged after two years, and got married instead of returning to school. Except for right before he walked me down the aisle. My hand was in the crook of his arm when he turned to me and asked, “Are you sure?”
He always seemed to struggle with showing his concern. Sometimes he was too hard on me. Sometimes, because he worried, he didn’t say anything at all. He didn’t show excitement when I got pregnant, but then he would warm up to the idea over time, or maybe he became resigned to the fact that there was nothing he could do about it. By the third pregnancy I decided I wouldn’t care what he thought, and by the fourth I think he realized we were going to be okay. But, no matter what, he was there or on his way to the hospital with each birth. He was happy to be a grandpa.
I missed him so much when, after having four kids, I finally walked across the stage to receive my degree in Elementary Education. I wish my children had been able to spend more time with him; to grow into the special nickname he had for each one of them. My oldest was 15 when Dad died. He wasn’t there for any graduations, or the wedding of that oldest, or the birth of his two great grandchildren.
I tell my husband and my son “Happy Father’s Day” , but I wish I could still say it to Dad.
The prompt for Day 16 of PAD was to write about a food establishment. This one was hard for me. First I brainstormed places from my childhood, but we didn’t eat out often. One place, though, that came to mind was the Varsity in in Athens, GA. Every summer when we went to visit Grandma and Great-Aunt Marie, we’d usually have a meal at the Varsity. I also remember a few Friday nights when we drove to McDonald’s on Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville, before indoor seating. My two brothers and I would eat in the backseat, with our food spread out across the rear dash. It was a real treat.
As a teen, our hangouts were Pizza Hut, Denny’s and Krystal. But, my first job, besides babysitting, was at Burger King. That red polyester uniform wasn’t too flattering, or too comfortable in the summer.
Two of our children worked at Dairy Queen during high school. Those were the years we enjoyed numerous ice cream cakes, and my son would always make me a very large diet vanilla coke that was addictive.
There are many more places I could have written about, but the sweet memories attached to Dan’s Sandwich Shop were the ones I decided to reminisce over.
Saturday afternoons in my teen years sometimes held a special treat We’d order from Dan’s Sandwich Shop and I would get a limeade We always brought the food home to eat at the kitchen table Those were the Saturdays I didn’t have to make Dad a sliced pineapple sandwich with mayo I still can’t find a limeade that tastes the same