In 1983 I wrote my dad a letter for Father’s Day. It starts “I remember when I was a little girl I would be outside playing and about 4:00 I would look up to see you coming up the sidewalk. I was so thrilled to run to you and have you take me up in your arms and kiss me hello. I knew when you called me your Princess that all was right with the world!”
In the world I grew up in, dad was king. We ate a home cooked meal every night about 5:30, starting with a prayer of thanks. Mom and dad were married for 63 years before she passed away in 2012. They had tough years and great years, but they believed in family and knew it was the greatest gift they could give me and my sister, Brenda, and brother, Chuck.
When I was a child, I remember him taking me fishing and boating. We had such great times camping and helping him in his garden. I was an anxious child and the safest I ever felt was with my dad. He was larger than life!
Life was not easy growing up during the Great Depression in Arlington, TX. My grandparents owned City Cafe on Division St. They had very little material wealth, but the family siblings remained close. You could see the love between them as they laughed and told stories. His brother, Gaither, was one of the last visitors he had before he passed away. It was heart warming to see them together and witness the bond they shared.
When it became necessary to move dad to assisted living at Lakewood Village, he had a wonderful attitude about living there. He loved the people there, and they loved him. He would make everyone smile and flirted like he was 16! He literally wore out Bibles with his readings and prayed beautiful prayers. He was on FaceBook and texted on his smart phone and LOVED his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. At the hospital, on one of his many visits, he was asked how many children he had. He said “3,9,7”. At first, I thought he was confused, but quickly realized he meant 3 children, 9 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren! He was sharp until the very end, never losing any of his charm or wit.
My dad was a Marine and worked at General Dynamics for 43 years. Can you even imagine that today? He was a Master Mason, a volunteer fireman for the City of Arlington for over 30 years, and sang in the choir at First Christian Church in Arlington. He shared a wonderful friendship with many people there, but especially Tom Hudspeth. Tom sang The Lord’s Prayer at dad’s service in the church, and I think it was the most beautiful song I have ever heard. One of the best moments of the last month of his life, was when Tom came to visit dad. There were lots of people in his room and we were in the hall saying goodbye to family members. As I was standing there, I began to hear a soft, beautiful voice of an angel. I looked in dad’s room and Tom was quietly singing The Lord’s Prayer to dad as he held his hand. There are no words to express the emotions I felt…gratitude, hope, faith, sadness, love. I knew without a doubt that God was in that room and in that moment.
We had lots of time over the last few years to be together. I took him to most of his doctor appointments which gave us time to talk and share stories. He charmed all of the ladies in every office and even told one of them to go pack her bag and get ready to run away with him! She would have if she weren’t married! He was everyone’s favorite. Even when he was in bad shape, he made the nurses laugh and smile. He was very special that way. He had a talent for making every single person feel important. I believe that was one of his greatest gifts.
Christmas was a very special time with dad when the whole family that was in town went for a visit. We filled his room with love and laughter. He was full of joy and everyone was able to spend time with him. Of course, we had no idea that it would be our last one with him. He was surrounded with all of that love and he was truly happy! All of the grandkids and greats called him Papa C! This photo was the year before in 2014 with kids, grandkids and greats. Wow!
During those final days of being with him beside his bed, the only thing to do was try and comfort him. We would hold his hand, talk to him about our best memories, assure him that it was his time to go to meet his Lord, hold his hand, and pray and read some of his favorites, The Psalms. He loved music and we played it for him to calm him. He was so tough and fought like the Marine he was until it was truly his time.
It is still hard for me to realize that I will never be able to talk to him, or go spend time with him, eat lunch with him, or hear his voice telling me he loved me more than peanut butter and jelly! He was never too busy to listen or encourage, tell a joke or a funny story, or give me a hug and let me know he adored me. He told me that because I was born on Feb 13th, he got his valentine early! This birthday was the first that I didn’t get a text from him or a call with him singing Happy Birthday to me. It will never quite be the same without him and his amazing smile, but I know he is near and watching over all of us.
PAPA C LIFE LESSONS
Love God and gain wisdom by reading The Bible daily and praying.
Family is the circle of loved ones that you love and protect above all else.
Work hard and do your best every day.
Make every person feel special that you encounter.
Make gratitude the foundation of your spirit.
Live simply, love nature, and appreciate people.
Save for your future so you can take care of yourself.
Keep your sense of humor, even when things get difficult.
Serve your community with honor.
Love your country.
Never pass up an opportunity to tell someone that you love them.