Wednesday, June 4, 2008

From the Heart of a Daddy's Girl

I’m a Daddy’s girl. Always have been. And now that he’s gone to be with the Lord, well…I’m still a Daddy’s girl. Always will be.

Just a bit about Obie Kennith Dawson, the man who was my father. (No, I didn’t misspell his name. He and my oldest brother may well be the only two Kennith’s in the world with an “i” in their name!)

He was a gentle giant—a big man with a heart to match, and a pair of humongous hands that fit the overall picture. One of my all-time favorite childhood memories involves sliding my small fingers into Daddy’s great big ones. His fingers (which were always warm back then) just kind of enveloped mine—the same kind of picture it would make if I closed my fist around a peanut. That little ritual filled me with the most incredible feeling of safety and love and belonging. It warmed me right down to the tips of my little toes.

Another favorite tactile memory is that of rubbing my cheek against Daddy’s when he came home from work at night, his face covered with the five o’clock shadow that only lasted as long as it took him to wash up and shave. By the time he pulled out his chair for dinner, he was clean-shaven and smelled of Old Spice. I loved the rough feel of those bristly little hairs against my soft cheek. Daddy would cuddle me close and allow me to play cheeksies, but only for a moment. Then he’d laugh and gently pull away. “Stop that, you silly girl. You’ll scratch your cheek.” And he’d be off to remove the offensive stubble.

He was never afraid to cry. I saw tears on Dad’s face many times. He couldn’t read a greeting card without choking up. Saying good-bye was never his strong point—even just “so long” brought on the waterworks if it meant one of us eight kids would be off on a lengthy trip that meant long, dangerous miles to travel. Sympathy…yeah, Daddy hurt right along with his friends or loved ones. Humility and gratitude…oh yes. He rarely talked about his salvation without crying. Daddy came to God late in life—sometime around age 48, I believe—and he never lost that sense of heartfelt awe in the presence of the Almighty.

Obie Dawson was not a rich man. He raised most of us kids on a farm laborer’s pay. About ten years before he retired, he got a maintenance job with the County (a maintenance job...and it was the easiest work he’d ever done in his life.) Funny thing is, we kids didn’t know we were poor. We had everything we needed. What we didn’t have, we had never had, so we didn’t miss it. We were happy and we were loved. What more could we possibly have needed?

My dad was my dearest friend, my confidante, my hero. Father’s Day to me will always be about him, no matter how many years I must celebrate it without him. He was the best Daddy in the world, or at least…he was to his baby girl. I trust that the angels will bear him my message this year and every year to come…Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! I love you, and I miss you every day of my life.

Be sure to wish your earthly father a Happy Father’s Day on the 15th. Give him a hug. Rub your cheek against his if you want to. Just don’t forget to say, “I love you!”

You’ll be glad you did.


LuAnn said...

What a lovely memoir, Delia! That is a wonderful picture of your dad and son. A true treasure.

Brenda said...

Delia, how absolutely awesome. As I face this year without "our" Daddy, I'm now crying (again) but rejoicing in the legacy he left me. I'm so glad I got to share my Daddy with you his last few months. He died knowing I had a dear friend, and he did, too. So, thanks for making his last months and my first ones without him, easier. I love you, dear Friend.

Delia Latham said...

Thank you, ladies! Yes, LuAnn, I treasure the photo of Daddy with my son. My kids all adored their Grandpa, and I'm so glad they got to know him! was such a joy to me to be a part of "our" Daddy's last day, even if in such a small way! Thank you for sharing him with me. This Father's Day, we'll both miss two very special men - but we'll also rejoice in that they were ours for awhile!