My dad departed this world in 1997, the victim of a sudden death heart attack. Yet, his influence is still with me to this day, and I am never prouder than I am this year to speak about him.
The child of a single mother, born in 1933, he spent his childhood living with the bigotry associated with that status. To show how much the world has changed, most people won't understand today what it meant to be a child without both parents being married back then. A child born out-of-wedlock then was the lowest status of all. They endured what is now called bullying, yet they had no recourse to stop the abuse. No teacher or preacher would comfort them after the other children shunned their presence. It wasn't accepted for a child to come into this world then without both parents around, or the mother to be a widow bravely going on after losing her husband.
Despite this, my dad was always there for all six of his children. His sacrifices are too many to count, but the one I remember most, and the lesson I take from that, always stays with me. He gave up every luxury most of us take for granted in order to ensure his children had a better than good education. All six of us spent our elementary school years in private schools. In order to do this, Dad sold insurance, and he was pretty good at it. He had to be, in order to pay a mortgage, school fees, and clothe those children. And he didn't ever complain about only having three suits the whole time we were in private schools. Three suits because he would have at least one in the dry cleaners and wear the others. As his weight fluctuated up and down, he scrimped and saved to have these suits altered. He shook his head in resignation as he tightened his budget just a bit more in order to have the dry cleaner pick up and deliver his suits – but it was far easier than driving there when he never knew what time he would finish up working.
Even when things got easier financially, his first thoughts were for his children. We had what we needed, but if we wanted something, he drew the line and made us get a job. Oh, you gasp, a job! How awful.
But it wasn't awful. All of us learned at a young age the value of a dollar. We learned to save for those things we deemed necessary to our teenage lives. Granted we had phone booths instead of cell phones, face-to-face time with our friends rather than social networking, and outdoor games rather than a computer loaded with the latest and greatest interactive gaming. None of what I experienced as a child held me back. Rather, the example my father set day in and day out gave me the strength to walk away from the nine-to-five world and devote fifteen years of my life to learning as much as I could about writing.
Now, on the eve of having my first book released, I can only say Thank You, Dad. It's thanks to you I'm achieving the dream. So many years ago, you sent me what would turn out to be your last Christmas card. In it, you wrote a personalized message "I'm so proud of what you're doing." I still hold those words in my heart. They are what keep me going when things get tough, and I don't give up when a manuscript is rejected because of your pride in me.
Happy Father's Day, Dad, wherever you are. You are my inspiration for so many things, and the father in so many of my stories.


Penny Estelle said…
What a lovely tribute, KC. I lost my dad in 87, but I talk to him a lot and miss him everyday!
KC Sprayberry said…
I still talk to my dad, too. It's a very comforting feeling.