I woke on the morning we lost you singing Red River Valley in my head, and thinking of you and how you would sing that song to us and sometimes put in funny words. And I thought how much I loved you. Despite our differences over the years, due mostly to the fact that we were very much alike in many ways, I loved you and always knew you loved me. That is really what matters, isn’t it?
You had that constant sense of fun that could sometimes be a bit annoying. Like the time you were sitting behind me in the car as I drove, and you started pulling on my seat belt, gently then harder. I was trying to figure out what was happening, and you said, “can you feel that?” You laughed like a little boy. Later I had to admit it was kind of funny…
But I always loved and admired your childlike spirit, innocence and love of life that created your offbeat sense of humor.
You achieved much in life, professionally and in your church work, and always taught, and expected, us to excel as well. “Mediocrity is a sin,” you would say, before I even knew what the word meant.
“Always do your best,” you would say, “Better than anyone else, if you can. But always your best.” Of course you always expected our best to be better than anyone else’s… I still expect that of myself.
I think inside you were always the “shy little boy” you described to me, who forgot the words to The Village Blacksmith on the stage, all those years ago. Perhaps that is why you pushed us so hard to excel, knowing as you did that the world is often unfeeling and unkind, so you best be prepared.
“I don’t care if the boys in your class tease you for making good grades,” you told me once, “you only have to worry about what you think of yourself.” And so went your lessons about dignity and self respect.
You gave me a beautiful example in the way you loved and cherished Mama. “I would marry your Mama again every day and twice on Sunday,” you would say. “My heart went pitty pat when I met her (holding your hand on your heart). I fell in love with her beauty and her kindness.”
You loved your own mother as well. “I had the best mother a child could have,” you said often. You said that about Mama too, so I guess they were both best mothers. I remember how you wept once, after Grandma’s mind went, and she kept repeating the story of how you left your new red sweater on the ferry when you were 10.
For now I need to say good-bye to you. I hope I remembered, over these last few months, to tell you all the good things from my heart. I’m sure you know all the good now that you are with Mama and Grandma and Father Verbis in Heaven. I hope you do. Because that is what I remember now, only the good. Your wisdom and guidance and love. How you always did your best at everything, and how you loved to teach us new words on road trips, like affinity and consanguinity. And tell us stories about your growing up. I always admired your sense of adventure when you talked about stopping trains, when they were not supposed to stop, so you could ride. Even trains that were not Grandpa’s trains. I still can’t see a train without hearing you shout “all aboard!” It comforted me when you spoke with pride and love about your parents, your country, your God. Your knowledge of local history made me want to learn more.
I’m sure it was the “shy little boy” in you who remembered Grandma reciting your favorite poem, Rock me to Sleep. You told me about that poem so I found it for you. Did it comfort you these last few weeks when I read you, “Backward turn backward O time in your flight. Make me a child again just for the night. Mother come back from the echoless shore. Take me again to your heart as of yore. Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care. Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair. Over my slumbers your loving watch keep. Rock me to sleep mother, rock me to sleep.”
I hope it gave you peace. The poem, and knowing you would soon be with Grandma again, The “best mother a child could have.”
I love you Daddy. I miss you and will always live with you in my heart. When it’s my time to cross over, I’ll listen to hear you once again say, “God Bless you, my Baby,” and “All aboard!” to help me find my way…
From the lucky daughter of "The Cajun God Loved," Jan. 5, 2013
Note: I posted this letter in memory of my Dad, to pay tribute to his life. It does fit the theme of this blog, in that Daddy always credited two strong and loving women, his mother and my mother, for his success. Marina