Monday, June 20, 2011

Daddy's Girl

I remember the day like it was yesterday -- a typical afternoon in the office in 2006, working on proposals and contracts. It was the holiday season, right after Thanksgiving, so the office was abuzz with the Christmas spirit. I picked up the phone that afternoon, and and was surprised to hear my mom's voice on the other end. Her voice cracked as she said hello, and at that moment, she didn't need to say anything else. I knew what was coming next. 

 Dad had been in and out of doctors and hospitals for as long as I can remember. He had a few heart problems, and struggled with asthma. Other than those health issues, he was super active and continued to work 6 days a week, sometimes more. I never once heard him complain, and his work ethic was better than anyone I've ever known -- if people had half the determination and dedication he did, this world would be a much better place!

In his spare time he enjoyed fishing and boating, driving the RV, attending Nascar races, listening to country music, grilling T-bone steaks, watching action movies, and using power tools. His favorite pastime was spoiling us as much as possible--candy before dinner, gifts for no reason, and later in life, cars when we turned 16. Speaking of cars...he loved going shopping for cars, and would also love to "surprise" us by trading in one car for another. I can't count on two hands how many times I came home from school to a different car/boat/truck in the driveway.

He was a very simple man - all he wanted for Christmas was socks, because he claimed he didn't need anything else. He never met a stranger, and would become friends with anyone from the checkout clerk at Lowe's to the people the next campsite over when we went on vacation. He'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, and would expect nothing in return.

When I was in college, we found out he had liver cancer. The first thing my parents did was go to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL to get tested. The tests would show how big the tumor was, and if a transplant was possible. After what seemed like an eternity, the tests came back... the cancer had grown just a little too big for Dad to get put onto the transplant list. At that point they gave him 6 months to a year to live. Being in Auburn and not living at home was something I had looked forward to for so long, but now I ached to move back and be with him. I would head back to Cullman for as many weekends and a holidays as I could to soak in as much time as humanly possible. 

Every time I came home, I always expected the worst, but was repeatedly surprised at how well he seemed to be doing. He was pretty matter-of-fact about things, but instead of lying around on the couch just waiting for the pearly gates, he went out and did what he loved best -- He went fishing. He grilled steaks. He went to a Carrie Underwood concert. He bought a BMW Z3 convertible. He even came to Florida and we went to Disney World!

I eventually began to see a little decline, mostly in his energy level. Life Care Hospice had started coming to the house a few times a week to take blood pressure, give him medication, and do any counseling if it was needed. Since he was in the Air Force, the VA gave him benefits, including a motorized wheelchair to use. (I remember he put a Jimmy Johnson sticker on it as if it were his race car, and used it to go down to the mailbox and check the mail every day.)

When my mom called the office that day, it had been over two years since the original diagnosis of 6 months. That was just like my dad - determined to not give in easily! 

The Lord took him at home, in his sleep, the morning of December 5, 2006. Me, my brother and sister, my grandparents, and my Mom were all there with him praying when it happened. His funeral was just the way he would have wanted it - his favorite men's quartet sang gospel songs, and his favorite pastor did the service. I knew he had a ton of friends, but didn't realize how many people's lives he really touched. There were so many people there! Friends of his came from all over the state (and surrounding states) that I had never met. They knew all about me and my brother and sister, solely by how much Dad bragged about us.

Every day, especially Father's Day, I reminisce about my Dad and how good of a man he was. I wish I could shout from the rooftops to the entire world to never take advantage of a moment with your dad or mom. Life can throw curve balls and you never know what can happen or what lies ahead. I would give anything for one more bear hug, one more deep bellied laugh, or one more ride in the back of the truck to the corner store for a candy bar. 

He didn't tell me how to live -- he lived, and let me watch him do it.

In memory of Roy H. Malone: an Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be ever at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain softly on your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


  1. I don't cry often but maybe I should. I still miss Roy and count him as one of my true friends. I don't have many. Your post hit the sweet spot. I will always remember the good camping trips we took. Tom Montgomery

  2. I am envious of your relationship with your father. All little girls should have something that special. I am glad you had an amazing role model and you make him proud every day, I am quite sure.

  3. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Thinking about you today and every Father's day to come.