I had a pretty good childhood. Playing hide and seek, football, tag, cops and robbers, soccer, ride motorcycles, etc… with all my friends. You know, your typical childhood.
In my younger years, I was never close to my dad. He was the type of guy that went to work, brought home the paycheck, mowed the yard, fixed stuff around the house, etc… Mom stayed home with the kids, so naturally I was closer to her than I was my dad. Dad and I never really “hung out" and did things together. Don’t get me wrong, he did come to my baseball games, my 8th grade band concerts, etc… but stuff with just me and him? Not really.
If we had done the father and son thing when I was a kid, maybe it would’ve been a little easier for both of us when my mom passed away. She died the day before my 14th birthday. I know it happens, I’m just glad I had her around for as long as I did. It was tough, not just for me and not just for dad, but for “me and dad” too. I mean, we really didn’t know what to say to each other or how to behave when we were together. It’s like we were miles apart and didn’t know each other at all.
When I got older and got my own place, dad would ALWAYS give me money whether I needed it or not. He’d always ask “Gary, how are you on cash?" No matter what I said, he would always give me money. Like I said, I don’t think he knew what to say whenever he saw me. Now though, I think maybe that was his way of saying, “Hey, I care about you."
As I got a little older, I married the most wonderful woman in the world. My wife and I tried taking my dad out to dinner. He wouldn’t let me pay for the check, he’d always pay the bill. I guess that’s the only role he really felt comfortable with… “provider”. I told myself that one of these days I was going to buy his meal (an item on my bucket list so to speak). Probably, in part, for selfish reasons too; I guess I wanted to prove to him that I wasn’t a kid anymore.
My dad was always a HUGE country music fan. When I was working in radio (country format), whenever he would call me at home, that was the only thing we could really talk about - country music. It was the only thing we had in common. The phone calls, typically, wouldn’t last that long. If the conversation wasn’t about country music, we didn’t know what else to say.
After my mom died, a few years later my dad moved from Texas to Franklin, KY, which is about a 40 minute drive from Nashville, TN. In February 2003, I happened to be in Nashville at CRS. CRS is a convention for country radio broadcasters and country music . I actually debated whether to call my dad and let him know I was in town that week (I didn't want him to feel obligated to come see me). I chose to make the call and he drove down to my hotel to have lunch with me. When the check came, my dad pulled out his wallet. I told him “I got this one, dad”, he said “no, no... Let me pay for it." I actually lied and told him that I had an expense account and the radio station would reimburse me for the lunch. I couldn’t believe that it actually worked, he let me pay for the tab! I wish I didn’t have to lie to him, but with him living so far away... I knew my chances of EVER paying for his lunch were pretty slim, since I didn’t see him much anymore. Little did I know, that was going to be the last time I ever saw him again. He died 5 weeks later.
I guess that’s why I’m writing this. There are a lot of things I wish I told him, but never did. So, in a weird way, I hope he’s reading this.
Just because I was able to FINALLY buy his lunch, wasn’t the reason it was one of my best days. It's because that day has given me the last image I have of him… one of the best memories I have of my dad. I'll get to that in a second.
My dad was a good man. An honest man. He was a nice person, but stern when he needed to be. It’s weird though, although we didn’t seem to know each other that well, he was the type of guy who never met a stranger. He could strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere, probably talk their ear off sometimes! He was very generous and had a lot of friends. My dad was willing to help anyone who needed it. Although he might appear "rough and tough" on the outside, he was very compassionate. Some of those qualities I didn’t notice until after he passed away. Even though he’s not alive anymore, he’s become a role model for me.
Like I said earlier, my dad was a HUGE country music fan. When he came to my hotel to meet me for lunch, he was amazed at all the country music stars just walking around the hotel lobby! He was so excited to see them all! I took him back into the convention area, as a guest, where there were more stars. Country music singers just wandering around, like Clay Walker, Tracy Lawrence, Terri Clark, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, etc… He got to meet and see several celebrities. I could see it in his eyes, he was just so happy and excited. Honestly, I hadn't seen him that excited since the time he threw a surprise party for my mom on their 25th wedding anniversary, 2 months before she died. He was on cloud nine that day we had lunch.
My last image of my Dad? Well, we were back in the lobby of my hotel and my dad got excited when he saw Lee Greenwood (wrote and sung “God Bless the USA”) standing there. I told my dad that I had to leave so I could make it to my next seminar, so I walked out of the hotel. As I was walking away, I turned around and looked through the glass doors and saw that my dad had struck up a conversation with Lee Greenwood. I thought to myself “Poor Lee Greenwood, he’s going to be stuck there talking to my dad for at least 20 minutes."
Lee Greenwood didn’t know how lucky he was.
Submitted by Anonymous
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