Dear Daddy,

It's been almost 24 years since you left us but, in my mind's eye, I can still see you as clearly as I ever did. I miss you for so many reasons.

Do you remember when you took Rocky for his first "boy" haircut? I'm sure it seemed as if I would never be able to cut off his quite long curly hair, so you asked me if you could take him to Matewan (or Williamson) with Lavaughn, Cheryl and you. I didn't suspect anything because you took "Papa's Boy" with you lots of times. On August 26, 1960 - at just a little over seven months old - you brought Rocky back with a real haircut. Although I was shocked, I was relieved that the "deed" had been done. He still had the tight, thick curls on top. I used to cut your hair. It hurt me so much, in the last few months of your life, to have you get up every couple of minutes to go and breathe some oxygen from the tank. Finally, you had to have it strapped on while I cut your hair. You always told me to make sure your little thin spot was covered and we tried to make jokes about how cumbersome the oxygen paraphernalia was.

Once, when we lived on Rose Center Road, you and I were picking strawberries and you told me you were going to make a cabinet for my sewing machine. You never had the time. You hinted that you were going to buy me a mandolin for Christmas, even though I told you not to buy something that expensive. You never made it to Christmas, but I bought myself a mandolin shortly after you died.

Oh, how we laughed at The Three Stooges. Every time one of us saw them on television, we would call the other. Sometimes, we'd watch while we were on the telephone. Our favorite was one where they were outlaws disguised as Indians. As usual, Curley had to dress as the woman - this time, he was a squaw. As it happened, they were up north somewhere and women were very scarce. A French prospector, named Pierre, took a fancy to Curley in his getup after Pierre's wife, Fifi, had left him. Over everyone's protests, Pierre married Curley. He threw the squirming stooge over his shoulder and, as he carried him upstairs, said, "Oh, does Pierre have a surprise for you!" Curley replied, "Woo, woo, woo, I have a surprise for you." It never stopped being funny.

You knew I could not stand actors L.Q. Jones and Bruce Dern so, every time you spotted them, you called me and tricked me into looking at a certain channel. Yes, Mariette Hartley is still around and looking good for her age. I know she was your favorite. Like me, you were a TV trivia nut and we picked each other's brains on many occasions.

Do you remember the cot I bought from Ewell Rice for eight cents? It was probably an old army cot he had picked up somewhere, but you "took" it from me and slept on it. That's where you were sleeping when Dressie Daugherty looked in the window at you that night. That's where you spent so much of your "spare" time listening to ball games and where we "curled" your hair for hours on end for a few cents so we could buy a bottle of pop or some candy. How you loved that!

You wouldn't have believed it then, but you snored just as loudly as Mother. I was awakened many times by your beating on the wall and yelling, "Sade, wake up!" She always denied that she snored, but that pounding scared the pee out of me sometimes. When you did that, Cheryl - my sleep companion - would hug me even tighter. She seemed to be scared of everything and slept by hanging onto my back most of the time. I still have a scar where her pet toenail scraped my heel. I wish I could hear you yell, "Sade, wake up!" again.

It was so funny to the rest of us when, in the late 50s, you applied for a birth certificate and found out that your name was George Washington McCoy - not William Homer! You were born on Abraham Lincoln's birthday, but you were named after George Washington. Go figure... Just as bad was the fact that we found out Nettie's name was actually Sadie, and that Sadie's real name was Maude. Somehow, you got it straightened out.

You used to take a bath in the creek after coming home from the mines. Do you remember the time Cassell, Rocky, you and I went to Silver Lake, in Michigan? Cassell and you had bought bathing trunks just for the occasion. The water was still quite chilly and you decided to get wet a little at a time. Of course, Cassell jumped in all at once. You walked out further and further into the water while splashing yourself and saying, "B-r-r-r-r-r-r." A few yards out, you suddenly disappeared and we thought you would drown. Just as fast as you went under, you shot straight up to the surface. We found out later that there was a significant drop off at that point.

When you fell in the garbage can that time, Rocky, you and I were on our way to the Thrift Store, where we went each Thursday. While waiting for the store to open, we'd always go to the D & C Store (a five-and-dime) and you would let Rocky pick out a half pound of his favorite candy. He always got some kind of yucky stuff, but you would always get chocolate-covered something. To my great embarrassment, the two of you would sit on the steps of the Thrift Store, which opened at one o'clock, and eat your candy. Every time, Rocky would ask you to trade with him and every time, you let him.

When we were very young, you taught me chords on the guitar and mandolin. You tried to teach Lena to play the banjo, but the only chord she could play was "open." You'd be so pleased to know that she is now an accomplished player. For months after I got my first guitar, I had to take it to your house and get you to tune it. One cold, snowy Michigan day, it was out of tune and I knew I wouldn't be able to drive to your house so I made up my mind I'd tune that sucker...and I did!

As a child, I couldn't understand why you never wanted to visit Grandpa and Louise, but found out later that you had a hard life then. You bounced from one relative to another until you were old enough to support yourself.

I learned so much about small engine repair from you and still use that knowledge today. I taught it to Tim. You would be so proud of Rocky and Tim. They loved their Papa. Cassell is gone now, so he will never know what it's like to be called "Papa."

Those clothes you wore - the loud plaid shirts, the pastel slacks, and the suspenders - made you unique. I'm that way, too. You wouldn't believe the dresses I have with frogs, dice, clocks, ants, Heckle & Jeckle, etc. on them. I have a dress for every holiday: one has flags and balloons for the Fourth of July; one has poinsettia for Christmas; one has Halloween patterns and one has Thanksgiving patterns on it. You'd be proud of my wearing them, Daddy!

You really made a good Santa Claus.

We were all so scared when you had gall bladder surgery. You were in so much pain when we saw you after they took you to your room, but you could still "cuss"....and you did!

Ah, that orange convertible! I won't dwell on it, but I liked to hear you tell about how you bragged to a car salesman that "me and the boys" painted it. The salesman said, "What'd you paint it with.....a broom?"

For several years before your death, it was hard for you to sit. I can still see you kneeling on the floor with your arms on the seat of a chair. That's where you were sitting when Junior, Reese and I made a tape on Danny's tape recorder. While we were singing, the telephone rang. We didn't stop and you answered the telephone. When we played the tape, you answered the telephone again! You always got Mother to make any business calls, but you talked incessantly telling her what to say - in case she forgot something.

You liked the custard pies I baked for you occasionally. Once was at your apartment when Cheryl had cooked the meal. She had made roast chicken and stuffing and it smelled so good. Were we in for a surprise when we tasted it! She didn't have any sage, so she put cinnamon in it.

Daddy, I wish you could have known Luke. He is a wonderful man and I love him very much. You would have loved him as much as you loved Cassell. Luke has made me happy in my old age.

Do you remember when you accidentally stained a shelf with tobacco juice when you mistook your spit cup for varnish?

The nurse told me it was an "involuntary muscle twitch" when you moved your right hand while I was talking to you that last morning in intensive care. I know you heard me talking to you. I know you moved your hand to let me know you heard me telling you how much I loved you and begged you not to leave us. When we left the hospital that morning for the last time, we were such a pitiful and lonely bunch. I never thought MY Daddy would die. That only happened to other peoples' Daddies. I was in for a reality check that day.

I sang "Precious Memories" at your funeral because you had told me it was your favorite. That was so hard for me to do, but I had sung it for you so many times.

I never saw you in a church except for when Reese & Kathy and Rod & Jill got married. You always refused to go to services. A few days after the family got back from Kentucky where you were buried, Mother came to our house with a Bible I didn't remember seeing before. She showed me where you had written that you had been reading it and you had asked the Lord for forgiveness of your sins and you were saved. Oh, how relieved I was!

Daddy, when it comes my time, please be there to hold my hand and help me make it to the other side. Were you scared? Save a place for me and I'll see you after 'while.

Your Daughter, Kathleen

Kathleen McCoy Eldridge© February 12, 2001 All Rights Reserved