“I am not ashamed to say that no man I ever met was my father’s equal, and I never loved any other man as much.”
I recently returned to Dallas from the small west Texas town that is my birth place. I lived in this small town until I was 5 years of age. I have spent the last thirty three years of my life traveling to/from this town visiting family and friends.
I traveled to Big Spring for summers and weekends during the first 18 years of my life to visit my beloved father, Mr. Jimmy Leon Waits. This past week I visited my fathers grave to pay my respects and deliver his new bouquet of flowers. This is not an uncommon event for I always take time to visit his grave and to pay my deepest respect to the man who molded and shaped me into the woman I am today.
The visit to his grave this time was a bit different. I began to think about all the wonderful gifts that he gave me during his short time here on earth. I thought about his journey through a terminal illness and how he remained strong through the entire experience. He taught me not to be afraid of death by walking the path as a brave and strong soldier of life.
My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer during my first year in college. At the time of his diagnosis, he was given three to six months of life. He died three months and one day after his diagnosis. I left my academic endeavors to care for my father. At the time, I thought this diagnosis was the most unfair thing that I might ever face in my life. I had no idea that my life was about to be changed (for the better) by walking/standing (sometimes kicking and screaming) with him as he embarked upon his journey to the grave.
My father was my hero from the moment I came into this world. My mother was a saint – but somehow, I was always my daddy’s little girl. He taught me the gift of unconditional love, kindness, respect, simplicity, honor and dignity. My father was a very simple man. He lived in the same house his entire life. He often purchased used furniture and his favorite automobile was a used el camino. He traveled to Las Vegas once a year (Thanksgiving). He had a witty and dry sense of humor. He would say things that would make your jaw drop. He was real. He was pure. He was honest.
My father spoiled me as a child and even as a young adult. He taught me how to drive on the back roads of the small town he called home. I fear he may have later regretted this due to the fact that once I learned to drive I would spend hours backing the car in/out of the drive way (not possible to calculate the amount of gas used). I once asked for a duck as a pet and he immediately made it happen. This was an interesting time for he and I (and the duck). My father was a bit obsessive/compulsive in the area of cleaning – and, ducks – well, ducks are incredibly messy and they are messy often. He kept the duck as long as he could stand it and then delivered it to the local cemetery pond.
The first time I snuck out of the house as a teenager was at my father’s home. I left the house with all the lights out and upon my return discovered that all the lights in the house were on. I entered the house fully expecting that my father would be waiting at the door. He wasn’t. He asked me to go to bed and get a good night sleep and we would talk in the morning. I awoke the next morning to the most delightful breakfast. My father looked at me and said – I have one thing to say to you – I am disappointed. This killed me! I hated to disappoint the man whom I loved so much. I never snuck out of his house again. My mother would often consult my father when I was veering off the path of life. My father would drive four hours to have a discussion with me. If the words – “I am disappointed” were involved – You could be sure that it wouldn’t happen again.
One of my family member’s recently made a very compelling statement with respect to my mother, my father and me. My mother was a true free spirit. My father was a simple man with simple needs. I have been blessed to have equal parts of each of them threaded into my life, my beliefs and the life that I am creating today.
I also realize today that having a beautiful father figure present in my life has contributed to the foundation of my very existence. My father believed in me. My father accepted me. My father loved me. My father encouraged me. I miss him today more so than ever. I am incredibly thankful that he was a part of my journey. I would love for him to be here with me today. I envision the two of us sitting on the back porch of his neat and tidy house enjoying a beer (he would be drinking a Natural Light) and I would likely be drinking some new brand of beer that I was trying out. He would call me “Bran” or “Kid” – which always made my heart smile.
I love you Mr. Jim Waits! Thank you for your beautiful contribution to my life. I strive every day to hold your simple view of life in my minds eye. I strive to carry your spirit of love and acceptance into the world for every encounter that I am honored to make.
You once told my mother that if I couldn’t find someone to talk to – I would talk to a tree – This still holds true (even more so than before!).
P.S. Anyone who has ever experienced staying overnight with me in any location might have enjoyed the turning back of the beds, leaving a little light on, and a bedside note – This is a gift of my father. I always came into a turned back bed, a little light on and a note wishing me a good night sleep or reminding me that I was loved. I carry this little tradition on in my life because I remember how special it made me feel.
You are special and you are loved!
Cheers, Brandi J.