I’ll Be Home Thursday . . .

I’ll be home Thursday . . . a final memory that still brings tears as we celebrate another Father’s Day.

Daddy, as we called him, was a quiet, unpretentious man.  My earliest memories are of holding his hand as he and I walked to Rossville to catch the bus to Woodland Park Baptist in Chattanooga, while Mother and Loretta walked to the church closer to our home.  Later the memories circle the kitchen table where he would be rushing to make biscuits before the Pastor arrived for a late after-service breakfast on Sunday evening – I’ll leave to your imagination the laughs when they arrived before he finished and learned who the real biscuit maker was at our house.

At one point he had an injured elbow and was out of work for a few days.  I fondly recall his pulling a chair up to the stove and asking me to help him prepare dinner so that it would be ready when Mother got home from work.

Tall and lanky, he was recruited to play basketball for his employer – and often shared the experience of how the Lord spoke to him and said, “What are doing here?”  He never wavered in his strong convictions.

Mother and Daddy NEVER argued in front of us girls – and it was later that I put together that on those rare evenings when he would pull out the Checkerboard and invited me and Loretta to a game of checkers, there was some disagreement going on.  Always short lived but nonetheless a reminder that the best of marriages will have bumps in the road.  But we were totally unaware and thoroughly enjoyed an evening with Daddy – I probably should tell you that reverse checkers is what we played – the object being to see how quickly we could give away our discs and the first one with a clear board was the winner.  Not sure where he leaned to do this, but he taught it to us and today the memory is cherished.

Fast forward to the dating years – I often heard my Mother tell my Father that she was going to raise us to be good girls and then she was going to trust us.  That sunk into the very fiber of my being and I was determined that I would not violate that trust – I’m sure she had all the fears a mother could have during the pre-adult years but she projected a trust that I felt and treasured.  When I got home at night (always pulling into the driveway at the eleven o’clock curfew) Mother was in bed.  But as the vehicle pulled into the driveway, my dad’s silhouette could be seen rising from his chair and heading for the bedroom – he never went to bed until he knew we were home.  That was just one of the ways he said, “I love you!”

And to my grandmother on a snowy afternoon when I was having to drive from downtown Chattanooga to the funeral home on McCallie Avenue to pick up Cliff from work, Daddy said, “I worry more about her now that she is married.”  I was totally oblivious why that should be until I had an empty nest. Then I understood.

Ours was a happy home . . . perfect, nah! But the childhood memories that Loretta and I share usually leave us laughing hysterically and more than anything else – thankful!

 Well Thursday came and with it came the phone call, “Mrs. Kelley, your dad has gone to Heaven” – Yes, it was the place he longed to be but that phone call left a hole in my heart as big as the Grand Canyon.

To say I MISS YOU, DADDY is a colossal understatement   And yet when the tears pour like raindrops (as they frequently do), I can feel his arm slip around my waist as he whispered by mother’s hospital bed, “Phyllis don’t cry like this for me when I am gone – for I will be at home.”  This memory doesn’t stop the tears but it does bring comfort!  I loved you then and I love you still!

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