MY DAD, Part I

Perhaps the title of my blog/book is incorrect. Perhaps it should have been named Fifteen Minute Dad. Any male, who does not suffer from infertility like myself, can father a child. There has only been one Man who can lay claim to having had no earthly father so every one of us had a father at some point. Whether this person was an active part or not in your life is the subject of another book which thankfully I have no frame of reference to write.

My dad was my hero. He was the one person in this world that I could count on. No matter what I had done and no matter how bad I had been, I knew I could talk to dad. He taught me that hard work and perseverance in this life is the only way to reach your goals. Expecting a handout is not the answer. He taught me to never rest on my laurels and by his very actions, he taught me that there is nothing free in our lives except for Salvation by the grace of God.

I had picked up the bass guitar in 8th grade and was also playing the bass in my dad’s quartet at church. We would travel all over the state and be in a different church nearly every Saturday night. I sometimes did not know where we were going until actually arriving at the church. The quartet sang southern gospel songs and some of our songs had a little bluegrass feel. My dad was my best friend. Travelling to those churches on Saturday nights really drew us closer together too. We would listen to gospel music on the way to the church. We would sing. We would laugh. We would talk. It was my dad who I confided in and shared everything with. My dad was the first person I told that I had found a girl that I loved. He would just listened to me go on and on about Tammy. He never once said, “Son, you are too young”. Or “Son, you need to take a step back”.  He just listened. I have been told that I am good listener — perhaps I got this trait from my dad because I am pretty sure I did not get it from mom.

With the exception of the last few years of his life, my dad worked hard five days a week. Even after he was placed on disability, he still tried too hard sometimes to do things around the house which were, due to his health, outside of his physical limits at the time.  My dad worked most of his adult life for Columbia Natural Gas. For those years that my dad was a service man for Columbia, when he would come home from work evenings, he would smell like the chemical additive mercaptan. His clothing wreaked of this smell. Natural gas has no odor so this chemical is added as a way to alert everyone in the area of a gas leak. If you have never had natural gas service to your house, or have never smelled a natural gas leak, then try to imagine the worse smelling batch of rotten eggs you have ever smelt and you will get the idea.

The year was 1989 and me and Tammy had made it through our first summer as boyfriend/girlfriend. Being two sixteen-year-old kids without drivers licenses made it challenging to see each other on a regular basis. Even though we only lived a few miles a part, the distance in our small rural town might as well been one hundred miles. We were however very fortunate that Tammy was able to stay with her aunt and uncle in the vacation house they rented on the Outer Banks the same week that my family vacationed there. The two houses were within walking distance which allowed us to essentially spend the entire waking hours of that week together.

Our junior year had started in August again with band camp and everything was going well. We were well into the first nine weeks of the first semester. We have a few classes together which was nice. This meant we could more easily ‘study’ together. Locker assignments were based on the homeroom, of which Tammy and I were in separate ones. Thankfully our locker partners were fine with switching so we were able to share the same locker. Everything was going well until one late afternoon in October. I was in my class and someone came to the door and asked for me to come down to the office. Having only ever been called to the Principal’s Office one time before in Junior High, I was a just a little bit apprehensive as I walked down the stairs and around the corner to the office.

“Jackie, your dad is being taken to the hospital. He has had a heart attack”

“He is only 50 years old!”, I thought as we were all sitting there staring at the hospital waiting room walls. My mom is sobbing. My sisters are sitting on opposite sides of the waiting room. “I feel so hopeless”“What would my dad do?”

By this time in dad’s career, he was working for Mountaineer Gas as a Corrosion Technician. This job was a little less strenuous than the one he had at Columbia Gas. He still had that rotten egg smell in the evenings; however, we had pretty much gotten use to the smell and just referred to the smell as “Dad’s cologne”. He would occasionally stop by the house for lunch if he was in the area however on this day, mom said that he had come home early. She heard a knock and when she opened the front door, there was dad with his face pressed against the storm door glass. She said he was pale and sweaty and all he said was “Bugs, I don’t feel good”. Bugs was dad’s nickname for mom — and I honestly have no idea where it came from.

Here comes the doctor!
He’s talking to mom.
They are going to do a heart cath.  “What is a heart cath?”, I asked.

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