Sunday, December 14, 2008

After 34 years...(long, heartfelt post alert!)

After 34 years...

I miss his laugh. He had a great sense of humor.

I miss talking Bama football with him. He never went to college, but was all Crimson & White in his loyalties. He took me to my first-ever bowl game in the rain in New Orleans. Alabama (naturally!) v. Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Bear Bryant called it the best game he ever saw. It's certainly one of my faves too, but for different reasons...

I miss traveling with him. All 50 states...Canado...Mexico...Bahamas...England...France…Holland...Belgium...Germany...Italy...Switzerland.

I miss camping with him. On the long trips to AK & CA, but also the mini-trips over the weekend or during the week in the summer to Rocky Bayou & Ft. Pickens & Grayton Beach.

I miss hunting & fishing with him. We were never very good, but we caught & killed a few.

I miss throwing a football & a baseball & hitting a tennis ball & playing ping pong with him. I don't recall ever beating him in pong, now that I think of it...Also, I recall that he never hit a backhand in tennis; he’d switch the racket to his left hand & always hit a forehand.

I miss breakfast & supper with him. Because his wife & kids were so important to him, we ate as many meals together as possible. I also miss the pre-fishing breakfasts at Joe & Eddie's, & the Saturday morning Krispy Kreme runs, & the occasional summer-day lunch at McDonald's or Burger King.

I miss watching the nightly news with him & listening to his wise commentary. There are those in our culture who arrogantly say that only the well-educated are wise. They are wrong about other things too.

I miss hanging out after school at Madaris Printing & Office Supplies & asking a million questions. He always answered them. I have been a business school professor off & on for over 20 years now, perhaps because of becoming fascinated with business things years ago as a kid in the business he founded & ran so very well.

I miss going to church with him. We went often, and it very clearly (to all who knew him) meant something to him. I also miss him serving me the Lord's supper and keeping the 3-year-old nursery. Because I’m his son, I started going to church 9 months before I was born, for which I am so very grateful.

I miss his singing. Mostly Hank Williams (Senior, of course), with some Roy Acuff & some gospel thrown in, along with some hymns. (“In the Garden” was a favorite of his, as I recall) I still love Hank, and not just because he was great. I'll never hear Hank (or anyone else, for that matter) sing "Heeeeeey, Good Lookin'...Whaaaaaat You Got Cookin?" without seeing him sing it to my Mom in the kitchen in the morning with that great smile on his face & twinkle in his eye. Steel guitars? Love ‘em; especially the ones backing up Hank on “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”

I miss him holding hands with my Mom. Which he did frequently. (She misses it too! I so thankful that Leo also holds hands with her in public.)

I miss the feel of his 5:00 shadow when he would hug me. Which he also did frequently. Because of his physical affection, I totally & completely reject the bogus lie from hell that “real men don’t show affection.” Dad was a country boy who enjoyed hunting & fishing & who was a veteran of the tail end of WW2. And he hugged all the time. I do too, with apologies to nobody. If me hugging my son or a friend offends your masculinity, then yours is a false, bogus, immature, incomplete masculinity.

I miss him making fun of how we danced at school dances. “Y’all call that dancing? Y’all don’t know how to dance…”

I miss going to the beach with him. He loved the white sandy beaches of NW FL as I do.

I miss him cooking burgers & manning the concession stand for our high-school football games.

I miss the bright green jacket he always wore to do the above (our school colors were green & white). He was buried in that jacket.

I miss him picking out songs--correctly--on the piano, despite having no musical training & not being able to read music. What a great ear for music he had!

I miss how he loved & helped his widowed mother & his widowed sisters.

Oddly enough, as painfully as I miss all of these things, it is perhaps things undone that I miss the most. Things that will never be done this side of glory. Some of which--praise God--won't have to be done there in the land of the eternal dawn...
--him taking pictures of my prom date & me--receiving his congratulations on graduating from HS/college/grad school
--rejoicing with him over being admitted to college/grad school
--hearing him say "you played well" after a HS jazz band concert
--sharing the steps of my call to ministry & to part-time missions with him
--introducing Lisa Mixon to him...and later telling him that she's the one for me.
--helping each other with our tuxes at my wedding
--calling him & saying, "Dad, you have a grandson named James after you...Lisa's doing great!" (He really would’ve cried at that one)
--him helping me move & buy a house, & then visiting us there often
--calling him & saying "Dad, you have a granddaughter named Rebecca Anne...Lisa's doing great!"
--being greeted by him with a hug when I come home to visit
--going to Alabama games with him
--going to Ole Miss games with him proudly wearing his "Ole Miss Granddad" or his “Ole Miss Pharmacy” shirt next to me wearing my “Ole Miss Dad” shirt.
--sitting on his back porch--or mine--together and wordlessly watching the dawn & the sunset

Basically, I miss his affirming me and his welcoming me as a man. I miss those terribly, and need them greatly. All of us little boys need that affirmation & welcoming.

And I deeply miss getting the chance to tell him "Goodbye..."

If you’re wondering, after 34 years I still don’t have a very good answer to the big “why?” question. I’m pretty sure I won’t get that answer this side of glory. I’m OK with that, but I still wonder. Especially on this day.

After 34 years, the wound is still just barely...barely...short of being too great to bear. But the Bible says "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones." C. S. Lewis said that if we knew what God knows about death, we would clap our hands with joy at the passing of a believer. And I do...most of the time.

But today, on the 34th anniversary of his death, I am very nearly overcome with the synergistic pains of loss, memory, and longing. Also with the awareness of how very far I am from living up to the very high example he lived before me for 15 1/2 years.

I'll be OK. Truly, I will. But not just now. Just now, I remember. And long for that which cannot ever be. The affirmation and affection of a father. I'm pretty sure he would affirm, for he always did. But I'd still give up much that I have ever had to actually hear him do so. And for another hug & smile & "I'm proud of you, son."

One day, he'll again smile that smile that made the ladies of Lowndes County, AL (& one in particular from Coffee County, AL) go weak at the knees. He'll hug me and say, "Welcome home, son...It's great to see you." And together, we'll celebrate at the party to end all parties (literally!). And...thank God!...I will never have to say “goodbye” or “I miss you” again.

For now, though, Bye Dad. I still remember. Always will. Thanks! Merry Christmas!

With more love than I can fully capture,


Judi McQueen said...

For me who still has my Dad, I cherish and treasure every single day that I am able to spend with him and realize that only by the grace of God Almighty that I am blessed with the guidance and affirmations that only a dad can provide. My dad lost his Dad at the tender age of 5 and in some ways is like your father - uneducated by today's standards but none the less a very wise man. And I can promise you that your father would have been just as proud of your post-graduate work and my dad is of mine. I am truly blessed to be his daughter just as I am blessed by you. Merry Christmas to one truly remarkable person this side of Heaven.

Stephanie said...

Painful to read as I hurt for you, Mike. Unfortunately I know all too well the sadness you feel. I do love the statement you posted from C.S. Lewis. Good one...I just wish none of us had to hurt in this way, but I am learning that in all my pain and I am sure all your pain, the Lord continues to show up BIG even in the grief. Even when we ask "why, God" over and over. We do serve an amazing God. I do hope J has had the opportunity to meet your dad. I know if he has he has told him the impact his son had on his life because you certainly played a big role in J's life. (his wife, too!)

Anonymous said...

Your post made me cry. I don't know the sort of pain you & Steph deal with daily. But I do know who does. Our Lord identifies with every possible emotion & hurt we have. I told Steph the other day that, in one of my recent chats with the Almighty, I wondered aloud how the greatest moment on Earth (Christ's arrival)could trigger joy & deep sadness at the same time. We celebrate that He came with joy, but our hearts ache to be at home (our true home) with Him & those gone ahead of us, too. It's a big mish mash of feelings. I will continue to lift you up during this difficult time.
Much love,

Anonymous said...

Mike, I still have my dad, and I, too cherish every moment with him. I was very close with my grandfather and he died right after I gradduated from high school. I remember him griping about people driving too slowly, his love for all things Auburn (except BL), and his very high expectations for people. He was a Navy man in every sense of the word. He bought a small business when he was out of college and made it into a good enough business where he was able to leave my sister and I enough money to go to college. He was a strong man of God and a true believer in Sunday School. I have started to think about him lately more often. My niece, Emma, looks so much like him-even with the wy the top of his ear folded just a tiny bit. Ella, the other one, sticks her tongue out when she is concentrating on something and he used to do that all the time. It's funny, the things we treasure and remember. Thank goodness for the strong men who left a lasting memory for us.

DeeDee said...

What a wonderful memorial to a fantastic father! From your heart to God's ears...
Merry Christmas Mike Madaris...merry Christmas to Ann and the kids!

We love ya

Joy, Steve & Debi Ogle