My Dad

One of the gifts I received while working with writing tutor Jane Gassner came after she pushed me over and over again to get my 87-year-old mother to share her story. Jane insisted I understand how my mother’s upbringing, her marriage to my father and the times in which they lived impacted my own life’s story. It was important in writing my memoir, she claimed.

Oh, my mother had shared a few surface level stories, the ones she could control and wrap up with pretty bows. As was characteristic of her generation, her stories were devoid of feelings, of fears and dreams. But when I asked her, “How did you and Daddy meet?” I caught her off guard and ultimately, got a glimpse of my father in his younger years.

After finishing high school my mother landed a job at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, Alabama where her duties included typing up travel orders for the officers. As she tells it, my dad, an officer and an eligible bachelor, walked into the office where she and two other young girls worked. “We were goo-goo over him but he didn’t pay much attention to us,” she admitted to me. He was 15 years older, an officer and all business, of course.

A few weeks later there was a party for one of the retiring colonels. All his co-workers were in attendance, dancing to juke box music and enjoying a picnic when the colonel stepped onto the stage and tapped his finger on the microphone. According to my mother this colonel wasn’t one of the stuffy ones but a real jokester, instead. He lit up the crowd with the funny stories he’d racked up during his military career. He picked on this person and on that one, then announced that there was one unmarried officer in the crowd. I’m sure he pointed out that this one bachelor was getting up in years, being that he was in his mid-30s. “My secretary says that there are three pretty—and very eligible—young ladies in the audience who’d like to meet you! John, come on up here and you, too, ladies!” he belted out. Of course, as my mother tells it, my father’s face turned beet red but he, the military man that he was, obeyed his superior. All three girls jumped at the chance to join him on the stage, my mother clarifying it with, “You know, we were all at that age where we were looking for a husband.” She was all but twenty at the time.

My dad was cordial and chatted with the girls but didn’t do much to move the needle forward. He then took his seat at the front table next to Dot, the colonel’s secretary. As the girls stepped off the stage, Dot grabbed my mother’s arm and swung her around and down into the empty seat next my Dad. Apparently my dad wasn’t taking the bait so Dot suggested he offer my mother a ride home. Off they went in his big ol’ Mercury and of course, the rest is history. 

The Mercury he bought shortly after meeting my mom.

Oh, I so loved my Dad. He was a man of very few words but I knew very clearly how much he loved me. If I acted out of line his simple, “My young lady disappointed me,” hurt much worse than the flyswatter spankings I got from my mother. I remember the time I brought home an F in calculus. “You must not like college,” he said calmly. “With grades like this you apparently don’t want to go back.” I retook that class and made an A. I think back on the hours we spent sitting in his boat, waiting for a fish to bite—hardly a word between us. He taught me how to swing a golf club and how to change a tire on my car, and of course, how to clean the fish we’d bring home.

The last time I saw my Dad was in summer of 1982 when he and my mother came to Atlanta to see the new condo I’d just bought. On the wall of my bedroom were two letters I’d framed and hung side by side. The first frame held an old, yellowing piece of onion skin and typed on it were his words describing what it felt like to be a new father. He described his new baby girl as the “prettiest thing on this earth.” The friend who’d received that letter kept it, then returned it to my father just prior to my 21st birthday. The second letter was a letter my Dad had handwritten to me on yellow legal paper, telling me how proud he was of me at age 21.

Each time I think of my Dad, I thank the good Lord that he got to see how much he–and his few words–meant to me.

– Father’s Day, 2017

  • Molly Hardin
    Posted at 05:29h, 19 June

    BeautIful story of your mon and dad. Thank you for sharing your heart;)

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 08:13h, 19 June

      Oh, Molly. You’ve been on my mind a whole lot lately…and you know why. Thank YOU for sharing in so many ways. You have no idea how many of us you’ve helped.

  • linda mangold
    Posted at 06:37h, 19 June

    Your stories carry me back in time. I remember back when we were growing up the father was the breadwinner and the mother was basically everything else including disciplinarian. I remember getting a “D” in Latin and experiencing the same shame and disappointment you describe and getting an “A” the next quarter.
    Your words flow so easily and are such a reminder of past memories. I thoroughly enjoy your work and know your father must be looking down at you with pride on Father’s Day.

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 08:12h, 19 June

      Latin? I stayed away from courses like that! I miss you!!!

  • Annie Gillespie
    Posted at 07:13h, 19 June

    Beautiful! Your Dad is smiling as he reads your tribute to him once again saying, “I’m SO very proud of my little girl.”

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 08:01h, 19 June

      Our Dads never leave us, do they? I know yours is smiling, too!

  • barbara parker
    Posted at 07:58h, 19 June

    This is beautiful. It touched me in so many ways. It’s a early, overcast morning and your words provided me with the quiet reflection of my own dad that came at the perfect time! You are wonderful! xo Barb

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 08:09h, 19 June

      Oh, Barb! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. How I wish we could all be together again at Laura’s. I will treasure that time forever.

  • Lynn
    Posted at 08:10h, 19 June

    Lisa, a beautiful story. I felt I was there.

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 08:14h, 19 June

      You are so kind to say that! You made my morning.

  • Jane Kelley
    Posted at 09:35h, 19 June

    What a great tale! I have no doubt your dad adored you and would be incredibly proud. Wish he had witnessed more of your triumphs in person, but they watch over us and have helped make us the women we are today.

    I’ll have to tell you how my parents met sometime. It’s another good story — and it was a good thing my mother had large feet.

  • Patrick Dye
    Posted at 10:55h, 19 June

    A beautiful story, well written and perfectly timed. Thank you, Lisa.

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 10:56h, 19 June

      Oh, I miss you two! Thank you for your kind words…

  • Leila Hartley
    Posted at 12:36h, 19 June

    Very touching story, Lisa! I know your dad would be extremely proud of how you continue to evolve as a woman, a mother, and a professional. I always enjoy your posts.

  • Margot Morris Dawkins
    Posted at 01:20h, 20 June

    My late nite “escape”….to read what you’ve posted!! We’ve both been lucky to be “daddy’s girls” and fortunate to have strong mom’s that taught us everything else. Our dad’s were willing to see us outside the box and I feel your dad encouraged you, just as mine did, to try my wings at what made me happy.

    Every time I see your dad’s picture, I see both of your sons, (and Emma) and know how proud he would have been of each of them. I know he was proud of you (and Michelle)!!

  • Sharyn Davidson
    Posted at 13:05h, 21 June

    Lisa, I loved every word of this. How sweet! Thank you for sharing it. What a lucky girl you were.

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 14:26h, 21 June

      Oh, a new grandmother you are!!! How exciting and what a beautiful baby she is. Thank you, Sharyn, for your note. Hug that sweet ol’ son of yours for me…

  • Jennifer Stultz
    Posted at 14:28h, 04 February

    I just read this and my heart is so full. Although I never knew him, I feel I knew him. I saw my own little daddy, your mama’s first cousin, in your words.
    I write often but not to the level and perfection you do but I feel a family connection when I read your thoughts.
    I’ve known and loved Liz for over 35 years but have never really known my peer cousins.
    You inspire me. You make me laugh. You fuel the wild child in me that makes me want to fly away to see the awesomeness of my unknown world.
    I look forward to subscribing to your blog and living vicariously through you.
    Write on!
    Jennie Stultz

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 17:55h, 04 February

      I hope you know how much your kind words mean to me. And hey, don’t live through me. Buy yourself a ticket, right now!, and get on that plane. I guarantee you’ll love it.