By Kelly Hines
When my father was dying, my mother left us alone for a few hours with clear instructions, “Say everything you need to say.” After she had closed the door, I turned to my dad and said, “Can we not do this and say that we did?” He laughed and turned on the television.
Since I was a teenager, I have written my parents long notes in cards for various occasions. I don’t have any doubt that they know how I feel about them, because I’ve told them countless times. But time has a way of making you think about things maybe you didn’t say. This week marks twelve years since my daddy passed, and there are things I wish I’d said in those hours we had alone.
Thank you for making me so freaking awesome. Or at least making me think I am. Daddy thought I was the funniest, the smartest, the best girl he knew, and he told me so all the time. He laughed at bad jokes. He puffed up with pride at every minor accomplishment. He asked me my opinion about things, and listened with honest interest. As a child, there are few things more impressive as the respect of an adult.
Thank you for teaching me how to argue. My dad and I had very different political views. So much so that when I registered to vote at 18, he didn’t speak to me for several days. When he did get over it, our differences sparked some intense debates. My father was hard headed, stubborn, and a master of circular logic, all traits I inherited. I learned that being right isn’t always the important thing, especially if you can be passionately wrong.
Thank you for teaching me to Texas two-step. And to throw a baseball, and mow the grass, and play cards, and bait a hook, and understand football, and drink a beer. My dad did not reserve certain activities because of my gender.
Thank you for showing me how to love your partner. My dad adored my mother. He was deeply loyal and completely dedicated. He was not the perfect husband (or father), but when my mother walked into a room, my father’s face lit up. It is the same look I see on my own husband’s face sometimes, and I am so very grateful for that.
Thank you for teaching me how to tell a story. Family gatherings were always the same – sit around the table after dinner with a fresh beer and listen to my dad talk. Every now and then, someone would get up and empty an ashtray or grab another beer, or interject their own memory into the story, but my dad always did most of the talking. He was a master storyteller, so it didn’t matter if we’d heard the story a hundred times. He spoke with a pronounced Texas twang and peppered his speech with malapropisms and curse words, stabbing a thick finger into the air for effect. More than anything, I regret not recording these stories; it is what I miss most about him.
At my brother’s wedding, my dad and I sat at the bar drinking beer and making commentary on the guests. Out of nowhere, he turned to me and said, “Of all the things in my life, you have brought me the most joy.” I will never forget that moment. Years later, as we sat watching television instead of talking, I realized I didn’t need to hear anything else. He had spent a lifetime telling me everything I needed to know.