Friday, May 25, 2012

Character

I just recently passed the 10th anniversary of my father's death. He died on May 19, 2002 and was buried May 23. In many ways it doesn't seem like that much time could have passed, but it has.

I still miss Daddy, especially when certain milestones are reached. Certain activities can trigger memories or make me think of how he would have felt if he were here. Eler Beth spent four days at Mom's this past week, and the night we dropped her off there two of my sisters and I had a little impromptu song session. It was so much fun, something we haven't done in a long time, and something we used to do a lot. At one point, after we'd done a song in which we did a pretty good tight harmony, my mother turned to me and said, "Jeff would have loved this!" And I said, "Yes, and he'd be getting out his tape recorder and saying, 'Do that one one more time!'"

I wasn't sure what I wanted to write to commemorate this anniversary, or if I wanted to write anything at all, and then it hit me today: I wrote something about my Dad back in 2005, the year I started this blog (journal, as it was known then, on AOL), and I'd like to share it again with anyone who'd care to read it. It's on my Dusty Pages Archives blog, but I'll just copy it here to make it simple. It was written as an essay, a Weekend Assignment that I think John Scalzi, AOL Journals Editor at the time, used to give us on AOL. Here it is, from:

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Letting Go of Prejudices

Weekend Assignment #64: Tell about a moment with your dad that serves as an example of one of his best qualities.

I have been wrestling with this assignment. I knew what I wanted to write, but not how to go about doing it. Today I know....

I am white and my husband is black. When I met, became friends with, fell in love with and knew I would marry my future husband I knew that my father would have a hard time with it. I had never dated anyone of another race, never even been interested in anyone of another race, although I had had friends of color. When I met Thomas what attracted me to him was him, and it had nothing to do with color or features. I knew in my heart -- no, in my soul -- that if my dad gave Thomas a chance he would see what I saw. And I knew them both well enough to know that they had so much in common that they would become friends. But how to convince my Dad of that? I knew I couldn't. He would have to find that out for himself.

The moment I would describe in answer to the above question was a Sunday night, several months before my wedding, when I sat on the floor at my father's feet and he and I talked together about me, about Thomas, about my beliefs and my father's beliefs, about love and friendship and so many other things.

I told my dad that when he decided to give Thomas a chance he would have a son-in-law who would show him the respect in word and in action that my father deserved to have from him. He would have a friend with whom he could fish and hunt and talk about things that had a place in my father's heart and about which his other sons-in-law could not converse with him. I knew this. In return my father told me about how he was raised, the culture and environment that had taught him that it was wrong and immoral to marry outside of your race. He told me about how his mother had been raised to be scared of black people and why. And he told me that if he was left alone to come to terms with it on his own that in his own time he would probably come to feel the way I predicted he would. But he didn't want anyone to push him.

I watched my father progress from listening to other people's good opinions about Thomas..., to deciding to give him a chance..., to becoming best friends with him! They talked and laughed together. My husband listened respectfully while my dad gave him advice on something or showed him how to do something (usually something Thomas already knew, but he listened anyway). They went fishing together, shared hunting stories, worked on family vehicles, did home repairs. Thomas listened to stories about being in the Navy during World War II, about growing up in Kentucky during the Great Depression. I listened with pride as my father called Thomas his "other son", his "favorite son-in-law", his "friend". When our son was born two years after we were married, the 10th of my parents' grandchildren, I saw my father with the grandson of his old age, and saw how much they loved one another. When our daughter was born six years later I saw the granddaughter of his heart. I heard with my own ears my father say to my husband, "I love you, Thomas. You're like a son to me." And he thanked me and my husband for giving him those two grandchildren. And two weeks before he died, when he knew the end was near but could still somewhat enjoy the time he had left, he took Thomas into his confidence and told him things that he probably wouldn't have been comfortable telling me, my mother or my sisters or brother. Thomas has said that my father was more of a father to him than his own father, and that he loved him more.

The moment that I shared with my dad that described one of his best qualities happened on that Sunday night in 1986. It was the moment he told me to give him time, that he'd come around. It was a moment that stretched throughout my marriage until his death in 2002 at the age of 80. I don't know if the quality has a name. Perhaps you would call it depth of character. His was deeper than even he knew. He had the depth of character to realize that perhaps the way he'd been taught and raised wasn't the way he really felt about things; the depth of character to get to know a man on the inside, to know that secret person of the heart. And in return for displaying that depth of character he gained a best friend in Thomas and two adoring, loving, smart grandchildren that helped to fill his last years on Earth with happiness and completeness.

My father has been gone for three years now, {at time of writing} but he is still with us. My husband and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary tomorrow, June 20. You can bet that my father will be in our thoughts as we wish each other a happy anniversary.

Me with my Dad, Jeff Dowell, around 1972.


8 comments:

FrankandMary said...

(usually something Thomas already knew, but he listened anyway).

That made me smile. But the picture at the end, perfect.

ladymagnolia said...

Lori I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your beautiful memories. I felt so caught up in it. It is an amazing story full of God's love, grace,mercy,patience & encouragement.

HUGS & Blessings~Donna

ADB said...

A great tribute to a great man. Thanks for reposting, Lori

Paula said...

Oh Lorie what an entry. I missed it in AOL Journals but did know you are married to a black man. I was raised as your Father was but I am so happy we are coming around to judge people by their heart not their color.

Ken Riches said...

I never goes away, just less sharp of a pain.

TARYTERRE said...

A beautiful story about your husband and father. A loving tribute to the man who gave you life.

Martha said...

That was such a beautiful tribute! Thank you for sharing it again here. It's been 12 years since I lost my father, still miss him so very much.

Jenny said...

What a lovely story.
Jenny <><