I can still hear the jingle of coins and keys in the doctor's pockets when he was running down the hall toward Intensive Care when Daddy died. I don't think I'll ever forget that sound.
Daddy and I liked movie and television trivia - and The Three Stooges - and Mariette Hartley (his favorite actress). We couldn't stand Bruce Dern or L.Q. Jones. Every time one of us saw them on television, we'd call the other and say, "Yuk." If one of us couldn't remember who played whom, we'd call the other and pick brain. We never ended a telephone conversation without saying, "I love you." One Tuesday night, in October of 1977, Daddy called me from the hospital. He was getting so he was in and out of it on a regular basis. Anytime he got a coughing spell or had a hard time breathing, we'd end the conversation, but not without our usual, "I love you." This time, Daddy got a really bad coughing spell and he told me he had to hang up. He said, "I love you," and hung up before I could respond. I picked up the telephone a few seconds later to call him back and knew I shouldn't because he was having a rough time. I told myself I'd tell him, "I love you" tomorrow.
Tomorrow never came for Daddy. That night, he went into a coma and never regained consciousness. We rushed to the hospital in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. We literally camped for days in a waiting room assigned to the McCoy family. I remember seeing Junior coming around the corner in the hallway, after flying from West Virginia to Michigan, and how good he looked in his suit, even though he had a really worried look on his face. I remember cornering Ronnie in the hallway and making him promise "they" would not pull the plug on Daddy. The doctors had told us there was no brain activity and, even though the nurse told me it was an involuntary reaction, I KNOW he heard me talking to him and he moved his hand to let me know he heard me tell him, "I love you, Daddy."
For several weeks after he died, I played a tape from a get-together in 1969 where Daddy can be heard very plainly singing, "Precious Memories." I cried almost constantly and finally knew I had to put the tape away.
I remember the plaid slacks, the colorful socks and shirts, and the suspenders. We always joked as to how he preferred those "pastels" to anything "loud." For Daddy and me, it was "the louder, the better." I'm still that way.
I remember sitting with him once when Mother had to go to Flint a few months before he died. Peggy Green had taken her. Daddy and I had been talking and he went to sleep. I was quietly sitting in the corner reading a magazine, and all at once he opened his eyes and said, "You know, smothering to death is an awful way to go."
I remember when he was making a shelf for Mother to put over the kitchen sink. He had it finished and was staining it when Cassell and I went to see them. Daddy had long since quit smoking, but chewed tobacco. You could always see him with a Styrofoam cup that he used for spitting. The shelf was on the dining room table and he kept working as we talked. All of a sudden Daddy said, "Dagnabbit, I've gone and spit in my varnish." We all laughed - even Daddy. It reminded me of when The Three Stooges were running a restaurant and Larry was painting a sign. A customer had mistakenly picked up the cup of paint instead of his cup of coffee. He took a big swig and splattered it (from his mouth) all over the counter. Moe picked up the coffee, took a swig, spit it out and said, "This coffee's awful. Here, drink the paint. It tastes better."
I remember coming back from Fenton one day and there, between the screen door and the back door, was a cutting board Daddy had made for me and covered with Formica. That cutting board lives in my living room in Georgia and has been used for everything from cookie-cutting to working on different projects using it as a lap table. Rocky and Tim loved to use it to play with their little toys and clay when they were sick and I would prop them up on the couch or the Jenny Lind chair.
I remember how Daddy was "afraid" of Santa Claus and would always go to Freeburn (we lived in Johnson Bottom) on Christmas Eve so they wouldn't run in to each other. It was really strange how, as soon as Daddy left, Santa would come down the chimney in the bedroom. As soon as Santa left, lo and behold, Daddy came back through the door with a bag of chocolate drops in his pocket. I never could figure that one out - the way Daddy and Santa always missed each other by just a few minutes!
Daddy was far from perfect, just like the rest of us, but he was my Daddy! I loved him more than anyone could ever tell. He was there for me many times. My personality has always been more like Daddy's and I think so often of the funny things we said to each other.
I remember when he taught me three chords on the mandolin. He played the guitar, I played the mandolin, and Lena "played" the banjo. (The only chord she was able to master then was "open.") We didn't know when to change chords, so Daddy would move his head up for "G," down for "F," and look straight ahead for "C." He rigged up a clothes hanger to hold his French harp (Yes, I know they're called harmonicas now.) and we thought we had a real band.