There are few who cannot say truthfully that they miss their parents after death has laid claim to those loved ones. The parents who taught us, scolded us and, at times, annoyed us are never forgotten, never put away on a shelf to be remembered no more.
There are many things I miss. Unconditional love, for one. The knowledge that no matter how badly I misbehaved, I would always be loved. Reprimanded, yes. Taken to the backyard and instructed to “pick a switch” for a dose of “hickory tea,” for sure. But always loved.
I miss how Mama or Daddy never saw favor in one person over the other, believing fervently that in God’s eyes, there are “no big I’s and little you’s. We’re all the same.” Now, they did take exception to those who laid up drunk and didn’t provide for their families, always calling them “sorry” or “no account.” And there was always certain to be an eyebrow or two raised over those who “never darkened the door of a church” with both of them alluding to how there would come “a day of reckonin,’ because there always does.”
“Sooner or later, every knee shall bow,” Daddy would say. “I’ve never seen it fail — everyone realizes a need for the good Lord sooner or later.” He would frown sadly. “Problem is, some are too proud to reach out and take hold of the outstretched hand.”
It is a grave loss, that of their calm assurance in times of uncertainty and tribulation. Daddy liked to call Mama “Doubtin’ Thomas,” hearkening back to the Biblical disciple who struggled to have complete peace during difficult times. Truth is, though, while Mama’s faith, like many, was pierceable, she worried far less than most. She prayed, stood on her faith and sallied forth.
I shall never forget the day that Mama, at 84, was being transported to the operating room for a triple bypass (the mention of her devotion to Crisco during this time would raise her blood pressure significantly), and I followed the gurney to the last possible step. Just outside the swinging doors to the operating room, the nurses stopped and said, “This is as far as you can go.”
My eyes filled with tears. It was a tricky operation for a woman of her age. Mama took my hand, she kissed it and then smiled beatifically. “Don’t worry about me. Whatever happens, I’m a winner either way. I either get to come back and see y’all, or I get to see your daddy.”
She smiled again. It was not false bravado. She meant it. Albeit that when she opened her eyes after hours of surgery, I think she might have been a bit disappointed that it was my sister, Louise, and me whom she saw, not Daddy and St. Peter.
I cling to the pieces of wisdom they left behind. Some simple, some complex, but all accurate and smart. Take, for instance, the other day when Tink and I were almost home and he noted that the car was on empty.
“Do you want to fill it now, or do you want me to do it tomorrow?”
I smiled remembering how Daddy always filled his tank when it got to half a tank, saying, “Don’t ever park a car empty in the driveway. What if you had an emergency in the middle of the night and needed to get there, and you couldn’t find an open gas station or you didn’t have the time to waste?”
Twice I can recall emergency calls that came in the dark of night, when, out of the blue, death beckoned and I had to jump from bed, grab clothes, and head for the car. Both times gratefully, the tank had gas.
“Get gas now,” I said. “For Daddy’s sake. And ours.”
There’s one thing that pricks at me still: Did I hear it all? Did I lay claim to all the wisdom they had?
I hope so.
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