Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shuffle off the buffalo and buffle off the shuffle-o

My dad died September 14, 2009. To say that he had been in bad health would be an understatement. Just in the past couple of years he had gotten so bad that he couldn't walk without a great deal of assistance, and even then he fell down a lot. Congestive heart failure, really bad diabetes, high blood pressure, about 59% kidney function, hardening of the arteries, and a host of other maladies. He had been in a great deal of pain over the past few weeks. His hip and his legs gave him excruciating pain.

Still, with all of his pain and all of his illnesses, my dad didn't want anyone to worry about him. He wanted to help others. He would give away the shirt off his back to help someone in need. He worried about his younger brother who has been in the hospital now for about 6 weeks. None of his other brothers gave a damn about the youngest. They would let him rot in the hospital and not so much as feel an ounce of guilt.

My dad worked hard all of his life. When I was a child, my dad worked 3 jobs to make sure that our family was taken care of and to make sure that I had opportunities available to me that I may not have had otherwise. Both of my parents instilled in me a strong work ethic. I learned that it was important to work to take care of your family. I learned the importance of being there for family regardless of past hurts or disagreements. Family should always be there for one another.

My dad used to drive me to preschool and kindergarten with the windows down. We'd sing Old Man River and he'd sing loud and boisterously and people in the other cars would stare at us. I'd get so embarrassed that I'd slide down in my seat so no one could see me, but I'd be giggling all the while. "TOTE THAT BARGE! LIFT THAT BALE! IF YOU DRINK A LITTLE SCOTCH YOU'RE GONNA LAND IN JAIIIIILLLLLL!"

Then when he pulled up in front of my school I'd open the door to get out and he'd say "Shuffle off the buffalo and buffle off the shuffle-o." Every time. I have no idea what it meant or why he started saying it. But I couldn't start my day at school without it back then.

We sang Blue Eyes Cryin in the Rain. It was our song. At my wedding, instead of dancing to 'Daddy's Little Girl" or whatever most brides dance with their fathers to, my dad and I danced to Blue Eyes Cryin in the Rain. Now, I doubt I will ever be able to hear that song without crying myself. I wish I had been strong enough to sing that at his funeral. I think he would have liked that.

Each time I cry when I think of how much I miss my dad, I can hear him telling me "Don't worry about me. I'm okay." That's the way he was. Even as sick as he was and even in all the pain he was in he would tell others not to worry about him and that he was okay. That man could be in the hospital for open heart surgery and would tell those that visited him not to worry.

My dad loved to travel. He especially loved cruises. He and my mom would go on at least one cruise a year. I remember trips with him when I was a kid. A trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee when I was really young almost ended with the two of us falling off a mountain. We were sliding down on a bobsled and we flipped off the track into the snow close to the edge of the side of the mountain. As alarmed as he was, he just laughed so I wouldn't be upset. He took me swimming on one of our vacations and I fell off the top of the ladder at the swimming pool. He saw that I wasn't hurt so he laughed so that I wouldn't get upset and cry from being so scared.

I know my dad was wild in his younger days. I love to hear those stories. But, more than anything, I remember my dad as being strong and caring. He may not have always expressed his love, but I always knew that he did love me.

Another important lesson I learned from my dad was that you make your own good time. Don't sit around waiting for someone else to show you a good time. So, those of you that know how goofy I am and why I find humor in even the most morbid of times, it was my father's lesson. I make my own good time. I use humor in just about everything I do. Perhaps others don't always appreciate my humor, but that isn't my problem...I'm having a good time.

I never wanted to disappoint my parents. Sadly, I'm sure I disappointed them quite a bit. But, my dad told me "don't worry about what we think. You do what will make you happy and what you think is best for you." I tried this one, but I still feel guilty about disappointing them. I stayed in the New Orleans area because I wanted to make sure my parents were okay. I knew it would be difficult for them if their only child moved far away. I stay here now because I want my kids to know my parents.

My dad was a wonderful grandfather. He loved my kids more than words can describe. My dad always looked forward to seeing my son and daughter. He had such a close and special relationship with my son. If he went a week without seeing my son, I'd get a phone call telling me how much he was missing him. He positively glowed when he was around my kids. He was truly a proud grandfather.

My dad loved music. He collected records for years. When he got a computer and found out you could download music...he loaded his computer up with songs. He'd find obscure songs that most people have never heard of.

My dad loved NASCAR. It used to drive me crazy when I was a kid. I never understood what was so interesting about watching a bunch of people drive around in a circle really fast for hours. I've grown to like it more now. It broke his heart when Dale Earnhardt died.

When my dad would hear of someone in need, he would work to try and help that person and their family out. He wouldn't always know exactly how to go about doing that, but he would try his best. He would talk to people and try to get donations or work on setting up benefits.

My dad was so good hearted and compassionate. People, including some of his own family members, would take advantage of his kind heart. He would give away every penny he had. My mother finally had to put her foot down because he was giving money to people that weren't doing anything to help themselves. My dad finally realized that giving money to people that refused to work wasn't helping those people at all. It pained him to tell them no, but he knew that it was better for them.

I love my dad and I will always miss him. I pray that I will be able to live my life in ways that honor him and would make him proud. I pray that I will be able to keep his memory alive in my children.

"Someday when we meet up yonder, we'll stroll hand in hand again, in a land that knows no sorrow. Blue eyes cryin in the rain."