By Delilah McMasters
The day you were born your mama was down at the Nip and Sip, I had to go pick you up.
He loved telling me that. Loved that my mother was knocked out after having me and he filled out the birth certificate and had her sign it. Laughed and laughed about the fact that she woke up and asked for my birth certificate to fill out, only to find out my dad had named me after his mama and grandmother: Vera Delilah. I’m not sure mother ever forgave him for that.
I have memories of fishing in a boat on Millwood Lake, hanging out in bait shops and playing with rubber worms. Eating at greasy spoon diners that served breakfast all day and fish on Fridays. Waiting until mother went to take a bath and carefully backing out of the driveway on the motorcycle, coasting to the stop sign in the dark, and heading to the pool hall in my silky pajamas. I would sit on a bar stool with a Coke, he would play pool until the phone rang. Mother would be looking for us, and he would look over and smile, keep playing pool and yell, “tell her we ain’t here” and we would giggle and laugh.
There was a lot of fighting. They were young, kids having kids. They didn’t know how to keep their hands to themselves or use their inside voices. And after one such night, mother ended up in the hospital and my sister was born three months prematurely.
Dad was gone. But my sister was here.
Mother remarried and I didn’t see my dad again for four years. Next time was eight years later. Both times for less than an hour.
We picked back up again after I got out of high school, here and there after I had kids. He would call me when he felt fatherly, tell me a story, shoot the breeze, set up a lunch date at a diner. We didn’t talk on holidays or birthdays, if we did it was by accident, it just wasn’t that kind of relationship. But when we did talk or he was around my kids, he was present, we picked up where we had left off and moved forward.
I asked him once how he met my mother. He went into this story about seeing her hanging around the high school campus. They started talking, he was younger than her by two years, and my grandmother didn’t like him. My grandmother didn’t like the way the relationship was going, with him being so young and all, so she shipped my mother off to family in New Mexico. My dad had a car and followed her there.
What could he say, he was young and impressionable, my mother was a cradle robber. He told me to mention it to her the next time I talked to her. Of course, with this information, I immediately called Mother and asked her why she at 17 was dating a 15-year-old?! After mother called him a lying SOB, and yelled “He was OLDER than me!” She hung up. Dad laughed about it for years. Told me not to believe her, didn’t he look younger?
My dad lived life. I never knew where he was going to call me from, yet the best calls I remember were when he would be heading home from an appointment and had decided to stop at the river and do a little fishing. He always kept a rod in the truck, because you never knew when you would be passing a good spot.
I’m going to miss those phone calls, the ones starting out, “Hey baby, I was feeling fatherly and thought I would call ya.”
He died this last week, and as I sat here trying to wrap my head around not being able to have any last conversations with him, I had to remind myself of what he had given me, and not the things he had missed out in my life - curly hair, a desire to be “motherly” daily (not when I am just feeling it), an appreciation for diners and pool halls, and the ability to forgive and continue to love.
Because trust me, it’s hard to understand after having kids myself, how a parent walks away and doesn’t try to make contact or remember your birthday when you are a child. But, it was easy to let go of all of that when I heard the smile in his voice when he was playing pool with my kids.
Delilah McMasters is a local resident and the mother of six. Reach her at BlessYourHeart76065@gmail.com.
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