My dad was always and still is an enigma to me. He was raised in a house with five sisters and one brother but treated me like a boy, teaching me to wrestle, shoot a gun, and haul firewood. He was always very moody, to the point that I sometimes wonder if he’s not bipolar himself. He can be very happy-go-lucky and outgoing at times, chatting up strangers in doctors’ offices, barbershops, and hospital waiting rooms, but when his mood darkens, it gets very dark–he won’t talk to anyone because he seems to be afraid he’d say something he’d regret.
One difference in our relationship to mine with my mom is that I never doubted he loved me. To this day, I know that if something ever happened to me, if I was beaten up, raped, or murdered, my daddy would be standing on the courthouse steps with a gun ready to shoot whoever it was that did it to me. Once we had some deer hunters shooting too close to the house (we lived in the country) and he took the initiative and shot back with a 12 gauge shotgun. Word got around, and someone said, “If you killed somebody, you’d go to jail for it.” Daddy said, “Yeah, but they’d still be dead, too.”
He was a Vietnam veteran, something I never knew until I was about 10 years old. He never talked about it until around 2000, when he got involved in the VA medical system. Then he wouldn’t stop talking about it for about the next couple of years. He didn’t see much direct combat–he was part of the 101st Airborne-they flew them in with big guns, shot up targets, then flew back out.
I could tell a lot of stories about him, but I’ll end with his latest obsession–he bought a disassembled car, a 1927 Ford. I have a cousin that works on cars, and he jumped at the chance to help Daddy restore this one. It took a few years and a little bit of money, but now he drives that T-bucket all over the country, getting his picture taken with it wherever he goes. So if you see a man driving a car painted in red and white stripes with white stars on a blue field driving around, wave to him for me. That’s my daddy.