One More Day … With Dad

It’s another Father’s Day without my dad. We lost him to cancer when he was 51. I was 22, the oldest of his three daughters, and am now older than he was when he died.

Every time I hear Diamond Rio’s “One More Day,” it makes me ache for that kind, easy-going, quiet, simple man who taught Sunday school, was a deacon in our church, played baseball for his company’s team and taught me to play too, tinkered with home projects, and chased a joyful flock of kids around the yard at dusk as childish squeals rang into the summer nights.

He was my favorite guy. His kindness and gentle nature were part of who he was, and I would delight at slipping into his garage workshop when young where he was repairing something while listening to country music on the radio. When I was older and working in downtown Richmond, I would stop by his work office out West Broad Street, taking a favorite dessert that we would both sit and eat while talking. I loved those quiet times together.

On Sundays we often walked the block to church together. He was a quiet Christian who had come to the church as a young twenty-something. No bragging, no Bible thumping … he taught me to live what I learned including to be respectful of others, be honest, loyal, and work hard, and I passed it on to my children. His teachings, along with the tenets of the church, were my foundation for life.

He was the oldest of five children. I am the oldest of three. My son is the oldest of two. We all have the same traits. My son is my dad in a younger generation. I have been told as long as I’m alive my father will never die.

His was not the life of a high-powered CEO or politician or world traveler, but he was the world to us. With his four siblings growing up in Amelia County, he was a child of the Depression who quit school after eighth grade to help support his financially-strapped family. His dad worked in Richmond during the week and sometimes didn’t make it home to the family with his paycheck but, instead, drank it away on the weekends.

So Dad shouldered that financial need by working to help his mother before enlisting in the Navy as a teenager to serve during World War II. Trained as a gunner on the USS Wisconsin, he traveled to exotic places around the South Pacific while the world was at war and, when it ended, he came home to Virginia, met my mom, married, settled in Richmond, and raised three daughters.

One of his joys throughout the years was traveling to southwest Virginia to attend the Galax Fiddler’s Convention. He would join up with our Grayson County relatives and spend hours listening to musicians from near and far play bluegrass music, a genre I didn’t fully appreciate until long after he was gone.

His other joys were fishing with his buddies on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and camping in Shenandoah National Park. We could not afford pricey vacations so our parents took us to the mountains from the time we were very young. I was one when he and my mom started camping at Big Meadows where they had honeymooned a few years earlier in the lodge.

Dad was a naturalist before it became fashionable. He was mindful of those protected surroundings in the Blue Ridge Mountains, teaching his girls to leave the flowers for others to enjoy, pack out our trash, be respectful of the animals that lived there, and most of all to enjoy the beauty that is Virginia.

To this day the Blue Ridge Mountains are still a special place for me, and I can’t help but think he would have been excited to know I ended up living so close to them.

Diamond Rio’s song sharpens the realization that if I could have just one more day with him, it would be sitting around a campfire in Shenandoah National Park as the sun lowered behind the Appalachians across the Shenandoah Valley … one more time.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Miss you still.

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