Those two words burst from my mouth like a blaring horn. They changed my life forever.
I often reminisce on Father’s Day which falls on a Sunday in June, and this has been a long day. The church doors have been closed, so I watched the Northminster service on my computer, but it’s not the same.
And now, Father’s Day 2020, the church service over and done, there are a lot of hours left in the day to do some remembering. I go back in time to that moment, years ago when Willard Boggan stopped by my Admission’s desk at University Hospital. My life went down a different path with that stop.
I need to give a short, quick background here. Willard’s parents lived across the street from mine, on Eagle Avenue. I had been married but was now single, son Bob and I were living with my folks and I was working at University. Late every afternoon, Dr. Willard Boggan made hospital rounds and was always so friendly and polite. For some unheard of reason, when I heard he was getting a divorce, I thought. If Dr. Boggan doesn’t take his wife back, I bet he and I marry.
And that afternoon, a few weeks after I’d heard about him and his wife, when the good doctor stopped and asked, “When does your husband graduate from medical school?” I thought, if he’s going to marry me, he’s got to know I’m a free woman. So I set him straight, with two words.
“Oh!” His mouth fell open.
About 30 minutes later, I got a call, asking me to dinner.
Looking back over our 63 years, the best I can remember, we were together every Father's Day. So many of those times are fading, but not completely beyond recall.
Now, 2020, although I can no longer celebrate you being with us, you are so missed. You filled our lives with more care, attention and affection than I ever knew existed, and you taught me and ours so much about unconditional love.
Along the way, sometimes our family roads were a little rocky; and to say the least, there were stumbles, staggerings, knee scrapes and a broken bone or two. Yours truly—I didn't always put on my best bib and tucker during many of those times, but, a gentle man, you were always there to pick me and ours up.
No matter what came along, your golden rule was to look on the bright side, or to ignore whoever was unpleasant or what you couldn’t change. I challenged that every now and then but you didn’t waver. You’d laugh and just say, “That’s my Lottie Bee.”
Oh, the places we’ve been, the fun we’ve had, so many memories I carry with me. Sometimes when I think of all you had to put up with, I have to duck my head in shame. One Father’s Day in particular, comes to mind. Instead of happy, you looked perplexed when you opened up your present from me; a brown paper bag holding two wrapped gift certificates: one for an oil change in your car, the other for a new left front tire. From the bottom of the sack you pulled out foldup, laminated maps of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Frowning, you muttered, “Am I missing something here? I don’t know why you think I need my oil changed, a new tire, and a bunch of maps.”
“Willard, I’ve had a wonderful idea! One I’ve been thinking about for some time now.”
You cocked an eyebrow.
“June Cleaver and I do a lot of walking everyday. The dog and I may get in training and take us a long road trip together. I figure, every twelve months, we walk as far as from here, to Amarillo, Texas.”
You flinched a little and drew in a breath, your cheek dimples so deep a day lily could have been planted in them.
“You can pick us up there, and we’ll ride on to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a vacation,” I said. “For our journey, June Cleaver and I need a map reader and an escort. And you do need a new left front tire.”
“That’s too far. There’s no way our dog can walk that many miles,” you said emphatically, turning on the telly and pushing back in your recliner. “We won’t do it, Lottie Bee.” Your eyebrows drew together into one, straight frown line.”And, those are my final words.”
I thought you might say that and had a backup plan in mind. “I’m so disappointed in you. We’ll do a much shorter journey. We’ll walk the Natchez Trace to Bob’s home in Savannah, Tenn. And I’ll have a book signing at daughter-in-law Gail’s restaurant.”
You acted as if you hadn’t heard a word I said, but suddenly the chair jutted forward and you reached for a bottle of Pepto-Bismol sitting on a nearby table and took a long, deep swallow.
“Whatever baby says”—that was always your mantra with me—so we made that walk. You were the escort for the dog and me, our protector.
It’s Father’s Day 2020, and there have been many changes since that trip. June Cleaver’s in doggie heaven. You’ve been gone five long years.
Heaven for me, was being with you. Now, all I have are memories and your picture in a frame, where I can see you all day long. I take comfort from my family and friends, my church; at night, Roo Roo or Petey Poo bed down with me.
You are always on my mind, forever in my heart.
I grew up with fairy tales, magic wands, and knights in shining armor. You were, still are, and always will be, my knight in shining armor.