Four years ago I sat beside my dad in his bed, holding his hand and watching the NFL draft. He was in terrible pain, the morphine made him sleepy, but damn if he was going to miss this. He grinned when the Saints picked Mark Ingram. He deserved better than eleventh pick, my dad said, but he has nothing to be ashamed of.
It was fitting that one of my last moments with my dad was sharing our love of Alabama football.
I always looked down on those girls who simpered over their fathers to get their way. Daddy's girls got major side-eye from me. My mother urged me to use my position as daughter to wrap my dad around my finger. I told her no, thanks. Besides she already had him at her beck and call. Wouldn't want him spread too thin.
We had very little in common, or so I thought. I was the moody teenager who grunted at him every evening on my way to band practice. He was the moody dad who grunted at me when he woke up in the afternoon to get ready for another twelve hour graveyard shift. He somehow made it to all the important things like band concerts and Scholar's Bowl tournaments.
He couldn't understand me, but I knew he loved me.
After I married and left home, we started bonding. We watched westerns and war movies together. We discussed our love for Janis Joplin and psychedelic rock. We argued over my socialism, but the more we talked I could see the shift in his thinking. I told him "Welcome, comrade" and he rolled his eyes but also smiled. He told me about the places he visited while on leave from Vietnam. I want to go to those places one day. Maybe a part of him is still there.
Then there was the football. I watched every Alabama game with him. We discussed recruiting, team potential, and the horror show that was the coaching situation at Bama throughout the 00s. We cursed the refs, the dumb play calls, dropped balls, missed opportunities. We cheered (at eardrum-busting levels) the touchdowns, the players, the whole spectacle. We would be exhausted by the time the game clock ran out. The year he got sick, he refused to scale back his enthusiasm. When Bama beat Florida for the National Championship, nurses rushed into his room to see what the commotion was.
When he was sent home the last time, just before Hospice arrived, he sat us down and told us what he wanted for his memorial. We kept it light, teasing him for some of his choices. Then he said that above all he wanted Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me, Lord" played. I choked back a sob and wrote it down with the rest of his wishes. This man who was literally eaten up with cancer, who lived through the horror of war, who buried three siblings and both parents still felt blessed. I was floored. He taught me so much with that one song choice.
My mom and I held his hands as his last breath faded. I simultaneously felt a huge hole form inside of me. I lost my football buddy, my fellow hippie, my dad.
I was a daddy's girl all along.