September 17th. Today is always the day that I dread each year. It was 15 (!) years ago tonight that I got the phone call that none of ever want to get. My dad had just left home for a board meeting at the Speedway when--TWO BLOCKS FROM HOME--a car being driven by a drunk (and high, from what I've heard) driver, going upwards of 70 mph in a 35 zone swerved into Dad's oncoming lane and hit him head on. I asked if he was hurt, and Mom said, "No." but it wasn't a happy no. I immediately knew by the tone of her voice that I didn't want to ask the next question. I knew then that he didn't make it. My brother was devastated--he had walked to the accident to see what was going on, and saw my dad's driver's license in one of the officer's hand. The accident had happened just beyond eyeshot of my house, so my mother had no idea of what happened for a couple of hours. Then my brother came back and the officers came to her door.
For the next few hours I was in hysterics. My best friend came and made me walk around my apartment complex to try and calm me down. I was up here in Nashville, and had to figure out a way to get back down to Miami (where I'm from) to try and help with arrangements. Everyone was too tore up to even think. I had no money, so my choir director from church helped pay for my airline ticket. I cried the entire flight down and back up 2 weeks later.
My daddy was my life. I adored him with a love that only a daughter who was her Daddy's girl could understand. I thought I could never live without him. With God's strength and knowing Daddy is watching out for me, I have. Of course my life has never been the same. The jerk who killed him only served 15 months, and has been living his life ever since. Dad's life was cut short so he didn't get to walk me down the aisle, see his grandchildren, ever see his parents & family again, watch another race, laugh at a good joke with his friends, grow old...
Daddy was born in Butler, Kentucky. He helped to build the family house in DeMossville that I would know my entire childhood as "Grandmaw & Grandpaw's" and that still stands today. He graduated from high school in 1954, and served in the Army Reserves.
He and my mom moved to Miami in 1960, and that is where my brother & I were born and raised. My mom still lives in the same house they bought in the early '60s. My daddy always wore his sideburns longer like Elvis, and he still used "grease" in his hair 'till the day he died. He was a mechanic, then a Service Manager at the largest dealership in Miami, and then he started his own business. He had his own garage since the early '60s, and Donnie & Bobby Allison used to work on their cars there.
He LOVED racing. Stock cars, NASCAR, any car...he loved it. He was a Chevrolet man all the way, and he was an Earnhardt fan. He always owned race cars, and worked on them right along with the other guys.
Some of the things about Daddy that are my best and funniest memories...
1) His laugh.
2) His sideburns.
3) His worn out boxer shorts.
4) His love of Budweiser.
5) How all he had to do was look at me and I knew I'd better do what he said!
6) His garage dogs, Harley, Honda, and Shithead.
7) Riding his 3-wheelers across the street by the canal.
8) His fake binoculars to carry booze in to the Dolphins games.
9) Taking me to the Bee Gees concert in 1979 and watching as all of us teeny boppers went nuts, then dragging him to the premier of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (poor guy!)
10) Singing to the tune of Old Rugged Cross: "On a hill far away, stood an old Chevrolet, all covered with rust and decay."
11) Reading the paper in his easy chair and falling asleep while still holding the paper in front of him.
12) Eating a half gallon (yes, the entire box) of ice cream. He liked Rum Raisin from Farm Store.
13) Taking us on a trip around all of the Florida tourist attractions. Disney World...
14) Taking me to college.
15) Buying me my first car...the white 1976 Camaro.
16) Cookouts at Crandon Park Beach.
17) Cookouts in our backyard brick barbecue pit.
18) Smoky, the black Chow
19) Going to his 30 year class reunion and wondering who all the old people were when he got there.
20) Dragging him to Olan Mills after my college graduation for the only family picture we ever had taken.
21) Al's Auto Service. The apartment behind the garage. The railroad tracks behind the garage.
22) His friends, Uncle Dee, Tommy, Buddy Ryan, Billy Barnwell, Charlie...
23) His auto parts calendars. (Mechanics will know what I'm talking about.)
24) Taking me to the airport to go back to school/Nashville.
25) Kissing me bye at the airport.
26) Going out to eat every Friday night, without fail.
27) Pro wrestling at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
28) Bowling leagues.
29) Daytona in the infield.
30) His voice. His face. His hugs.
Wow. I can't believe what I am sitting here remembering. How fun! I'll have to journal more of these later.
What remembering all of these things shows me is that even though today is a sad day on one level, on another level it has made me smile to remember the good memories of my daddy. What a man he was. I miss him, but I am so, so, so thankful to have known him and to have had him as my daddy. He was the best daddy in the world.