Sunday, June 21, 2015

Things my Daddy taught me

This is the second Father’s Day since Daddy died. He died quietly, like he lived, at age 86 at home on July 7, 2013, with his dog Pancer beside him and his wife of 50 years, Emily, caring for and keeping watch over him.

I couldn’t write about Daddy then or the first Father’s Day, but today I keep thinking of Daddy, wishing I could ride over to Pleasant Grove today and visit him, bring him some chocolate or some ice cream or a new book to read and talk about Auburn football and the weather.

I’ve been thinking about all he taught me, how he helped make me into me.

Born Charles Henry Romine, the oldest son of the oldest son, Clarence Brown Romine and sweet Nana Ora Lee Durham Romine, Daddy was raised in Fairfield and Ensley. He served in the Navy near what would become the end of World War II, serving in California and Washington, until victory over Germany and Japan sent him and others home with a GI bill that he used to attend and graduate Birmingham Southern. Like so many others in Birmingham then, he went to work at U.S. Steel, then still called T.C.I., because those initials from Tennessee Coal and Iron Company appear on my birth certificate. He was a supervisor and worked as a manager and department boss, walking miles through the steel mills and coming home smelling of sweat and iron.

That’s a brief bio, but what we remember most about our daddies is what they taught us, and the older I get, the more I know and appreciate what Daddy taught me.

Daddy taught me to love Auburn University, a gift I passed along to my former Bama fan husband. Daddy lived to enjoy both of Auburn’s official national championships, but he was a War Eagle, win or lose.

Daddy and me, circa 1963, U.S.S. Alabama

Daddy taught me how to garden, how to pick beans and dig peanuts and hoe around the plants, getting the weeds, but leaving the vegetables.

Daddy taught me to cook eggs with just a little bacon grease for perfect eggs I never really mastered. My children still call these PawPaw eggs.

Daddy taught me to work hard and not expect anything you didn’t work for. He’s been proven right again and again.

Daddy taught me, or tried to, not to use credit, to buy only what you have the money for. It’s taken me too long to master that one, too, but again truth wins out.

Daddy taught me that parents aren’t perfect, and we cannot always get what we want – especially when what a little girl wants is for her parents to not be divorced, and her family not to be so different from everyone else, or so it seemed.

Daddy taught me that grown-ups have struggles, too, and that they can eventually make the hard changes they have to to survive and stop hurting themselves and those they love. He was a sponsor in AA and sober for more than 30 years. I know he passed it on and tried to help others, and he made sure we understood how the choices we make affect others.

Daddy taught me how to fish, to wait until the bobber goes all the way under before pulling back and bringing in the crappie or brim. He taught me you can put dog food in panty hose and tie it to the pier to attract minnows that attract fish. He taught me to throw back the ones too little, and he taught me how to clean the fish I caught -- although I’ve tried to avoid using that knowledge, if ever there were any willing male fish cleaners available.

He taught me to keep a coat in my car during wintertime, and some water, too, a flashlight and a halfway decent spare tire. He taught me how to change a tire, but, like the fish-cleaning, I avoided this if I could. He taught me how to check my oil and my water, and eventually, to reset/unstuck the carburetor on my first of many clunker cars, the 1965 Rambler Classic, tinted aqua blue-green, with its sticky finicky carburetor and no air conditioner or working radio. He taught me the value of saving for something – like I did that Rambler. I paid half and Daddy paid half of its $500 pricetag.

Daddy, and Momma, separately, taught me to love to read and to always have a book handy, to go those other places and learn new things through books. And even though he could have benefited from a tablet or Kindle in his latter days, he stuck with real paper books. I shall do likewise, I hope. He also tried to teach me his way with math and to love Suduko,  but it didn’t take and skipped a generation to my daughter who groups numbers in her head like I do words.

Daddy taught me to play dominoes at an early age, and card games, too. Merciless in dominoes, he counted and knew what dominoes were left in the boneyard and likely what was in your stack. A month before he died, when we all thought he his mind was blurring, he beat me three out of four in dominoes, still counting and still working those numbers.

Daddy taught me there is always room to love others, to help others -- as he and Emily took care of, adopted and raised Emily's then niece, Dreama Shea Romine, who became, in their senior years, their second daughter and the sister I've always wanted. I am glad I was able to share Daddy with Dreama and know she could make a long list of what "Uncle Charlie" taught her, too.  

Daddy taught me to do what you say you are going to do. And as a young woman, he preached to me to make sure I am always able to take care of myself -- so you are prepared, no matter what life brings you.

Today, as I remember all the things my Daddy taught me and recall all the wisdom my husband and children’s father has tried to pass on to our precious ones, I’m grateful for fathers and their important place in families everywhere.

I thank the Lord for mine and miss him today and most every day.  But, I remember what he taught me, as a child, a young woman, and as a full grown-up, and his wisdom continues to serve me well.

Happy Father Day Daddy, and to my children’s Daddy. Thank you for your love and all you’ve done for us.

Picture of the Day:

This is another favorite, little me with Daddy.

Song of the day:

By Billy Joe Shaver

"You fathers and you mothers, 
be good to one another. 
Please try to raise your children right. 
Don't let the darkness take 'em. 
Don't let 'em feel forsaken. 
Just lead 'em safely to the light.

When this old world is blown assunder
And all the stars fall from the sky
Remember someone really loves you
We'll live forever you and I."