June reminds me of Father’s Day and of Frank and my dad. I’ve told you many stories about Frank and what a good and faithful husband and father he was. But this is about my dad.
Who knows why our first thoughts on waking are what they are? A few days ago, I woke up thinking, ‘Tell me not in mournful numbers…’ Longfellow’s Psalm of Life ran through my mind all day. I should have it committed to memory. It was Daddy’s favorite…that, and the 8th chapter of Romans. I read them to him over and over in his final years.
Daddy was devoted to Mother and when her crippling arthritis and dementia made it impossible for him to care for her at home, even with help, he went to the nursing home with her. He had been strong, healthy and active, but for his last eight years he stayed by her side, seeing that she was well cared for. I spent time with them, talking with Daddy, sharing the news, reading his favorite scriptures and the poetry he loved.
I listened to him share memories of when he and mother were young. He would tell me that Mother was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen with her long red hair blowing in the wind when she rode Old Shorty. He shared that she was much more intelligent than he because her scores on teacher’s exams were higher than his.
In the early years, I would drive him out to his farm or on little trips to familiar places. He would say, ‘That’s where your mother was teaching when we married’. When we crossed the Arkansas River, he would tell me about the great flood of ‘27 when the Mississippi backed-up causing the Arkansas to flow upstream to where it was two miles wide between Van Buren and Fort Smith.
A drive up into the Boston Mountains reminded him of his trip to Fayetteville to visit the University of Arkansas. He rode up with a friend, but walked home, down the railroad tracks, some 39 miles. But he had walked seven miles each way to high school and ran training miles with the football team. He didn’t complain once (about being in the nursing home) but told me he’d like to get up and just run and run. My heart ached for him even while I admired the husband and father he was.
Daddy loved the poetry he had studied and taught; Longfellow, Wordsworth, Kipling and others brought back memories of earlier happier days. He would often join as I read, repeating words he had learned long ago. I’m glad I could take him down memory lane. But when the poetry reading was over. he’d always say, ‘How about that 8th Chapter of Romans?’ Yes, How about that that 8th Chapter of Romans? “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’ So: Tell me not in mournful numbers…