Monday, June 8, 2009

A Tribute to my Dad

This is my dad and me. My cousin sent me the picture a few years ago. It was one I'd never seen. It's one I now look at daily. See, my dad died five years ago. Exactly nine months before my son was born. The title of this blog entry is what I titled what I wrote for his burial. See, Daddy outlived all his close friends. All of them. The preacher who resided at the burial wasn't a preacher but a friend who preached when there was a need. So, when he was done with the generic stuff I spoke. Here's what I said back in May of 2004:
"They said on the news that 1000 World War II vets die each day. I sighed in relief and thought, 'not my dad.' Then, last Sunday, the phone rang, and I realized how erroneous that sigh of relief was. My dad was 83, and he was a WWII vet. Last Sunday when I walked into his hospital room to say 'Goodbye' he was already gone. Not my dad. No, please. But it was my dad. He had gone to a better place where I like to imagine the words from Matthew 25:21 being softly stated... Well done my good and faithful servant. And the best thing about those words is the fact that my dad will be able to hear them clearly for the first time in years.
Albert (He was named after an uncle) Hammonds (After the doctor who delivered him) Tracy (We've never successfully figured out the history of the Tracy name) was born in Lafayette, Georgia, in 1920. He was an oldest son. Six brothers and sisters followed. They lived in a time and era where very few families owned cars. Dad talked about falling out of the back of a wagon. He told about his grandmother sitting on the front porch and not even blinking as she took up a nearby rifle to shot a rabid dog. One of his favaorite stories had to do with playing baseball. The neighborhood boys didn't own gloves, or even a bat, but they made due with hands and a ball and a good-sized stick. Then, the uncle of one of the boys breezed into town and when he saw what the boys were playing with, he went into town and bought each one of them a glove. The nephew got a bat. Dad says the uncle was Pretty Boy Floyd. My Aunt Bernice always looked sideways at him when he told this story. He always looked sideways back. I like his story, so I believe it.
When I was a little girl I didn't realize his name was Albert. I thought it was Dick. Even this past week, his current wife's (Noralee) son asked me who was labeled Dick in all the military photos. Dad said he used to deliver newspapers, and there was an old lady in the neighborhood who couldn't remember his name so she called him Dick because she could remember Dick Tracy. He was so excited when he went into the army. Finally, he'd shed the Dick nickname and be Albert. He said he no more had exited the bus when someone shouted out, "Hey, Dick!" and so he wound up being Dick in the army, too.
He met my mother when she was only sixteen. He was quite a bit older, in his twenties, and in the army. His job as military police was escorting Japanese prisoners, via train, from the East to the West. He often had a layover in Omaha. One day, he and some buddies were on a bus in downtown Omaha, way back in the forties, and he looked out the bus's window and saw my mom and her girlfriend walking. He made his friends exit the bus and they followed the girls to the movie theator. Such a romantic beginning. They were married 48 years.
He died on Mother's Day. At first, that really hurt me because how will I ever face Mother's Day, but the truth is I've had a hard time with Mother's Day since my mom, Rosemary, died. She was a great mother and thought I was a perfect angel, but that's a mother's job. I don't think Dad thought I was a perfect angel - he was a bit more realistic, but, then, he'd been in two wars. Two: Korea and World War II.
He took a lot of pride in the fact that he'd served his country. He must have seen some horrible things because he didn't like to talk about it much. His favorite stories were about being a cook in the army. He'd cook for me and my mother even. I guess in the army, pepper was the seasoning of choice. He had little songs having to do with biscuits and coffee in the army. Those were his good memories, but he had some bad. When I was little, he used to walk out of the church whenever they sang Precious Memories. I found out that he was sitting on a log with a buddy, and the buddy was singing that song, and the next thing Daddy knew the buddy was gone - like my dad is now gone.
I was on an airplane when my dad left this world. I didn't make it to his side to say goodbye. I'll always feel a bit guilty about that. Just like I've always felt a little guilty about being an only child. You see, my dad should have fathered 12 kids. He loved kids. He carried candy in his pockets for them. He'd offer to take strange kids home because he needed a dishwasher. My friends loved coming to our house. My parents were the drive-to-skateland-movies-Peony Park kind of parents. Sometimes on the ride, he'd stop the car and my friends would say, 'What are you doing, Mr. Tracy?' Dad would say, 'Did you see that sign?' They'd all look and ask, 'What sign?' 'That one,' he'd point. 'It says Stop Ahead so I'm looking for a head to stop.' Like most kids, I didn't appreciate my dad's humor until I got older.
Albert also loved his church. If you go by the North Omaha Church of Christ, you'll see a brown, shingled sign that announces all the services times and important information. My dad made that. I can remember cleaning the North Omaha church. I was so young I didn't have to help - or maybe they simply didn't make me. I'd crawl under the pews and count the gum stuck there. One time I threw a ball and it landed in the baptistry. Dad just put on the waders and fetched it. We were at the church every Wednesday night and two times on Sunday. There was never a debate. We attended church.
The only books my dad owned were the Bible and Bible companions.
This week, he went to be with his Lord. I truly hope to see him someday. And I know he's waiting to reacquaint with those who loved him.
Thank you for coming.

5 comments:

  1. Pamela,
    What a beautiful tribute. These days it's so hard to face Mother's and Father's day. The intent was to sell cards, and yet it puts such pressure on us as humans to realize that all parents, whether 50 years ago, or today, do the best they can at any given time.

    God Bless,

    Carol

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  2. The good thing about this blog is... I lost the file I'd had the tribute written in. I cleaned my office, all the drawers in my bedroom, and even near the television. Finally, my husband said, "Look where you keep his flag." I found a hard copy and had to retype the whole thing. Made me miss him all the more.

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  3. I hope you write a book about all your dad's stories. It's intriguing with what you just shared. I'm sorry for your loss, yet you know he's in a better place.

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  4. Pamela,
    I'm terribly sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing man. He actually reminds me of my grandpa, who is also an amazing man. That's how I know your Dad must have been.
    Thank you so much for sharing,
    Hannah

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  5. I wished I'd taped what he had to say. He actually was at a concentration camp after it was liberated, but he wouldn't talk about it. He had another story about being the guard on the train and having a prisoner escape. My stories pale next to his.

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