My father died when I was seven. That was too young for me to really know the man, but old enough to have a few precious memories, and develop an impression of who he was to me. He was my daddy, and he was the greatest!
One of my best memories is the day he came to kindergarten as my show-and-tell. My father was many things that made him awesome in the eyes of a child. He was a Marine, Volleyball Referee, Guitarist, Singer, Dungeon Master, Artist, and Magician!
That day he preformed some magic tricks for my class. My favorite was the cigarette and the quarter trick. He lit up one of his Marlboros and “magically” stuck it through the center of a quarter he had pulled from some kid’s ear. Then he stayed and played, building a log cabin with my friends and me.
One of my strangest memories is a late night meet up at the Waffle Shop–similar to a Waffle House, but more localized. My dad was into CB radios so much so that he had talked my mom into joining a group called the Midnight Modulators. Everyone got a “handle” then one person was sent out to hide and broadcast clues to their location. I remember sitting in the back seat of our orange compact–that reminded me of a bug, but wasn’t–and driving around in the dark trying to find this “mystery man.”
Some of my favorite memories were of the nights my dad would have his D&D (that’s Dungeons and Dragons) buddies over. At the time I didn’t understand the game, but I loved the stories. No one was better at spinning a fantasy than my dad. Really, he was even recognized for it. My mom still has the newspaper clipping.
Did I mention that my dad also had a motorcycle? Well, he did, and he used to come home, pick me up, and let me ride with him around the block. He wasn’t just awesome, he was cool.
I’ve worked very hard over the years to keep memories of him alive in my mind. Some I think are more idealized, but there are some I am very sure of as being the real deal. I remember he used to call me pumpkin, which I’m sure I would have grown to hate at some point. I remember that he loved people, and socializing. I have a lot of memories of parties and BBQs. Once there was even a tailgate to the beach for a Luau. He was a man of many interests.
Among the relics of who he was that I hold onto are his original D&D books (and I do mean original, before all the revising and new edition stuff), a pack of “magic” cards, and a gold bracelet with my name engraved upon it (the last present he ever gave me). There are also quite a few pictures that show what a character he was. Pictures of him dressed in a homemade toga, drinking from a “boobie” mug, looking like Groucho Marx, riding his bike, on horseback with me, refereeing, playing with my brother and me in the snow, and all manner of him in Marine garb in “the field.”
He was killed in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. It is strange to me that I can look it up, and read about it. Most of the time I don’t even think about it. It’s just something that happened. I’ve seen the original pictures. I’ve even seen my father’s autopsy report. His name is on three monuments that I know of. Many have called him a hero, and that maybe so. But he was more than that, more than a name engraved in marble. He was my daddy, and he was the best.