Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My sweet daddy

It's my parent's fault - I am WHO I am because of "them". I have written about my mom (that's where the whole "Ribbons of Blue" story came from)... and I'll probably write about her again, but today I reflect on my daddy. He has had incredible influence upon who I have become.
If you know him, you're probably shaking your head right now, thinking, "Yep, Wanda is so much like her dad." But let me regress... I have been shocked, scared, surprised and scripturally punished by Stanley B more times than you can imagine!
Yes, I mean "shocked" as in electricity SHOCKED! This man is brilliant. He worked around live electricity, so he was fully aware of the line between "dangerous" and "hilarious". As a kid, you're not expecting your dad to zap you when he says, "Come and hold this wire for me so I can get this cap on." His favorite party starter was to load a condenser out of a car with several charges off the battery, and then just lay it on the table. (My friend, this made for great family entertainment when we were having company over!) It's human nature to pick up whatever gadget is laying around and "fiddle" with it while you're talking. The condenser was harmless until you touched both sides of it at the same time. Us kids were trained in keeping a straight face and not staring at the person that was getting ready to be knocked out of their seat by this little wire demon. Of course, we had all been the recipients of the thrill of terror his gadgets delivered, so we were anxious to get the party started! When the fingers finally made the connection... hysteria ensued. (Hey, we didn't have XBox and Play Station when I was a kid! We had Stanley B LIVE!). As an adult, I am still very leery of anything he wants me to "hold, touch or taste". His sense of humor enjoys practical jokes immensely.
Putting a stocking over his head - donning a hat and coat - and waiting outside for an unsuspecting guest that might be leaving or arriving has been a common occurrence. The first time I saw him in this state, with his face distorted by that stocking, I was about 8 years old... alone in my bedroom. I looked up and saw him standing in my doorway and literally climbed on top of my dresser! We had a lot of fun with that one though... We became cohorts and I would set the stage for his appearance at my slumber parties... or even after church with a visiting missionary family. He really does look hideous in that get-up...
Another favorite is to cake a pat of peanut butter between the heel and toe of his shoe before walking into a room. After sitting there unobtrusively for awhile, he makes a show of "smelling" something. "Did someone step in something?" he'll quip? As we all check our shoes - he groans... "Uh-oh... I think its me." And then the fun... as he slips off his shoe... smells the goo there... "Yep... I think I've stepped in something." ...and as the onlookers watch in horror, he scoops out a finger full and... TASTES it... then with a snarled face... "Oh yeah... its definitely me." The reactions to this little joke have been quite entertaining through the years.
How many people has he had outside in the wee hours of the morning, on their hands and knees, calling out to the dead? He would convince you that you could talk to the ancient dead folks (who for whatever reason, happened to be buried right there in our back yard). He promised if you called loudly enough "Oh dead spirits, what are you doing down there" - they'd answer back "Nothing at all". After several attempts and no answer - he'd tell them... "See, they said nothing... nothing at all".
More than one time, my wild and free spirit had to be tamed. He used to tell me, "Wanda, your mouth is gonna get your tail-end in trouble!" He used the element of surprise to his advantage on several occasions... nothing like getting a lickin' when you didn't even know Dad was home! Those times of discipline stand out in my mind because of the "lecture" that followed the punishment. Normally Dad would send me to fetch the Bible and the Dictionary. Between those two resources I would find the need for repentance... and usually ended up on my daddy's lap, sniffling as he prayed over me.
Wherever Dad has been - he made friends. He loved deep and gave all. He started churches from scratch... that was his calling. He built men... that was his gift. He raised a family... that is his reward.
For the past two months, I have seen my daddy nearer to death than life. Teetering on the very brink of heaven's promise, he has stayed full of fight and faith. Every day with him is a gift. We cherish every moment... hang on his every word. After 85 years, how much time we have left with him is irrelevant. What matters is the love, life and legacy we have shared. He has taught us to live fully in the moment and to savor every second. We've laughed, loved and dreamed - big enough for ten lifetimes... in his own words... "I have no regrets."