Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Greatest Man I Ever Knew

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.


Jenn said...

Hey was the first man that i ever looked up to and he treated me like i was his real granddaughter even though i wasnt ... my birthday will forever be mared by his untime death it was just 2 days after my 11th birthday .... i rememebr i talked to him not even 15 mins before making plans for him to take me out for my birthday the next night ... oh how i wish he were here ... Ginger all our lives were changed after that night but know that i loved him very much and miss him all the time ... i look at Alvin and see him all the time .... but sometimes it dont even bother gettin sad because i know hes with me ALL the time protecting me and making sure i grow up to be a responsable woman ... one day i will tell u about the dream i had about him many years ago ... to this day evey time stuff getts really tough i have this dream so i know hes there

Kathy T. said...

I'm so sorry for you. I started crying in your third paragraph. Hang in there and hold on to those happy, good times.

Ginger's Mom said...


He thought you were a really Special little girl, you know! I remember him saying to me, "I don't know what it is, but there's just something about her!" And I know you remember the Doll he went shopping and picked out for your Birthday just two days before, when I couldn't go! If he were here, he'd be wishing you the Best for ALL your Birthdays and you'd still be that Special little girl, too!

amanda said...

No matter how long or how far away someone you loves may travel, their love always stays behind, they are called memories. Treasure them and love them, as know one can take them anyway. God simply blesses us each with memeories of loves so we have peace before we see them again.
Smile because you had a great man to show you the way through life and he still by your side today, watching his daughter and sweet baby granddaughter. How proud he would be.....

Alvin said...

I never met him but every one says we do and like alot of the same stuff like na-na siad he loved fried pottatos(I may not have spelled that right)and i do i maid some tonight for my dinner.Like from what i heard he liked chevy impalas and caprices and those are my most favorite types of cars.When i was born i had a white spot of hair on my head.I guess these a some of the reasons Na-Na calls me her little Al

NA-NA said...

Yes Honey, you ARE "My Sweetheart Little AL" and don't you forget it, even if you ARE already as tall as he was! (And the white spot in your hair WAS the exact color of his hair at the time)! If he could be here with me right now, he would be missing you AND his "Sweet Granddaughter", just as I do. Now, you "Sweethearts" be GOOD up there and "LOVE to you ALL" from down here at the edge!!!

(I'll bet you know ALL different kinds of cars now, like he did, don't you)? :)

David Gosney said...

The BEST time each summer was when you, Rick, Uncle Al and Aunt Lillian came up to KY to visit. All of the hours we spent playing croquet (spelling?) in Pop's and Granny's yard with Rich and Mike.

I will forever miss Uncle Al and I will always remember 2 things he taught me:
1. Dale Earnhardt was the best driver. EVER.
2. Always clean your wrenches and tools when you're done for the day.

I love ya and can't wait to see ya at Christmas!

Ginger said...

I am so filled with love at all of your all are so special, and I want you to know how much your words mean to me.

Jenn, I know in Daddy's eyes, you *were* his granddaughter. He adored you.

Alvin, you are totally remind me of him.

David...What great memories!!!

Kathy T & Amanda...THANK YOU.

Mom...of course, thank you!

Arlene said...

This is really BEAUTIFUL.I really enjoyed reading it. I am also glad to here you are getting better. You have been in my prayers. Love ,

Cookie said...

I'm glad you shared this with us. I'm a "Daddy's Little Girl" too and I have yet to face living without a Daddy. Thanks for sharing with all of us.