Last Dance

My Daddy died yesterday. Unexpectedly- but not without warning.

He had just been over last week to have dinner with me and my kiddos. I was trying my culinary hand at boneless buffalo strips, (kinda thinkin’ I could bring the same flavor as bone-in wings) ah but  you can’t! You must have all the flavor-makin’ marrow to bring the “finger-lickin’good!”

Anyway, he came over like he always did when he could and he hung out with me in the kitchen while I cooked and talked. He told his stories; asked about the kids, digressed about food and retold some of his same ol’ confusions about the mishaps and misunderstandings of his life. We did our daddy-daughter dance. It’s what we always did-he talked, I listened, and ever-so-often replied with a question ( usually to see if he could explain his thinking) or I would just interject an “ah” or an “hmmm” so he would know I cared even though I didn’t fully understand where he was going with much of it. Although for many years, he has struggled with confusion, fretting behaviors,  and delusions, my brother and I had noticed his mind had really begun mixing up his stories over the past year at an undeniable rate.  So, I have to admit that I wasn’t always paying as close attention because I would sometimes wander off into my own problems-brought back by his asking me a question, usually about the kids. Daddy loved the kids.  He was so proud of them, and he always enjoyed a diversion about them, so that is usually where we would waltz while I was cooking.

Kids had a dance with him too. They would come in quickly, eyes lit to see he had come over, big long hug, a few exchanges of affectionate how’s it goings, and then sometimes listen in awhile to him talking, but most often scurry upstairs to go about their time ’til dinner.  My daughter  just confessed the other night, “I sometimes listen to what Papi is saying for a little while, but I just can’t follow any of it or understand what he is talking about?” “Oh, I know baby. There is no way you could,” I assured her. “He’s just ramblin’. No worries. But, he loves seein’ you kids.” That was pretty much every visit every time-greet, visit with him while I cook dinner, call kids down, eat together, let them run on, listen more while I clean the kitchen, then it was the exit exchange-always same steps, right then left…

“Oh Baby, Daddy’s gotta go now.” (big hug and kiss on the cheek) “I love ya baby; your daddy loves ya.”

“Oh I know Daddy; I love you too, so much! You be careful drivin;’ stay awake!”

“Aw, (slight chuckle) I will- I most tha time do.” (playful smile)

And he was out the door, until the next visit about a month later when we would do it all over again.

It was our dance. Same one we’ve been doin’ for years. But not last week. It was different. When it came down to the closing moves, he missed his cues. I finished cleaning the kitchen, made my verbal gesture and then-he stayed. Instead of moving to his usual line, he kept lingering. He stopped talking; he had somethin’ he wanted to say, but he was stalling, hem-hawing like something was bothering him. He started telling me he had been having some pain in his chest and arm for awhile, about a month. We talked about it, me getting on to him for not going to see the doctor, ’til  he promised he would. I figured that was it, but then he still stayed. Instead of making his way to the door, he came in the living room and sat down on the couch. I was stunned. Something was definitely up; he had something on his mind that put him outta his routine. And that just never happened. So I sat down too and waited.

“Baby, he said, you foundja anybody yet?” He was serious.

“Oh, Daddy.” I realized where he was headed. “No, Daddy. I’m not lookin’ for anybody.” I laughed nervously; he stayed serious.

“Well now Baby, you’re gonna need somebody. Ya know Baby, you’re just gonna have to get back up on that horse; you know that, right? You just can’t hang around here like ya are forever?”

I paused and thought for a moment. Wow, he was really serious.

“Ah Daddy, I’m fine.” He hasn’t even been gone a year. We’re all still grievin’ it.  I’ll move on when I finish; I’m good Daddy. I’ve got my kids, my job, and I’m really, really good.” I had been looking down while I gave him my reassurances, but happened to glance up; and he had gotten completely still. He was giving me eye contact, and listening, not fidgeting like he normally did; he was concentrating hard on my every word. I stopped too-looked him straight in the eye, “Daddy, I promise. I’m good. I’ve been talkin’ with God everyday. He is carrying me through this like I never could have imagined. I promise, when they’re all gone to college, I’ll get back on the horse-besides, you never got back on the horse?” I gave it a light chuckle to lighten his mood. “What about that, huh Daddy?”

He relaxed, but just a little. “Well, it sure wasn’t cause I didn’t want to, Baby.”

There it was-the warning. I have to admit that in the moment, I completely missed it. He used the past tense-“not because I didn’t want to.” He knew. He was done. He had come over to have one more dance with his baby girl-his only girl. And he wanted to know that I was gonna be okay, that someone was gonna take care of me,  and in his East Texas man-way, that meant a husband.

For all my daddy’s faults and confusions, I never once wondered if he loved me. And I know he knew I loved him too. Since his passing yesterday, each moment has been a glance back over that visit and this morning it wakes me with gratefulness. I had a precious daddy who loved me deeply and wanted to make sure that in his absence, I was gonna be alright. He wanted me to keep on living even though he had decided to be done; and he took the time to come have one last dance. I will forever praise the Lord for my fun-loving, whistling-a-tune, sweet-serving, storytelling, fixer of everything, hippie-man daddy that the Lord let me have all these years of my life. He had a beautiful mind and a kind spirit, and both are free today from this world and the weights of it that held him captive. He is free, and I will rejoice and be glad in it, ever-giving praise to the One and only, Jesus Christ, who sets us all free from this world. Thank you Lord for my daddy. May he rest in peace with you this morning. Psalm 149:3-4


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9 Thoughts to “Last Dance”

  1. Jodi Sheffer

    This was soo beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes… Some of him reminded me of dad…. And some of him was what I had always wished I would of had as a girl always fighting for the love of her dad… He would always try to make you smile and I will miss his ramblings on the most. I loved to listen to uncle Jimmy, no matter if it didn’t make sense, because even if I couldn’t have a dad that showed his little girl interest, I had a uncle who could talk my ears off and show more interest than I had in my life. He will forever stay in my memory and heart. I am glad to know that he made sure you knew that he loved you. Closure can be hard to come by. Much love cousin.

  2. Aunt Bessie

    Oh Tammy… such a beautiful tribute to your daddy. He was a great brother-in-law to me as a child, always letting me stay with him & Shirley. And Gary has wonderful memories of their fishing times together. I am so glad you and he had that last special dance. What a treasure. I love you dearly.

  3. sherrie moore

    So sweet and lovely. I am sorry, sweet friend. Much love to you.

  4. Shirley Goode

    Well, sweetheart, I have to admit that this was a hard blog for me to get through. It is so sweet, precious, and sensitive. I have cried all the way through it wishing I could have made a difference or somehow have helped him., but that wasn’t the job God had for me to do. Thank you for your insight into a very sad situation; and you are so right. He loved his baby girl, and he loved his grown-up girl even more, just as he loved his son. Your wisdom and faith is amazing. I know he was proud of you. He had a good heart, a kind and loving heart, and he will be so badly missed. Thank God he is at rest now, celebrating his first Sunday with Jesus. A beautiful blog from a beautiful woman.

  5. Martha Wessinger

    Hi Tammy!. Shirley just messaged to tell me about Jimmy’s passing!. This was a beautiful tribute to your Daddy!. God was so kind and compassionate (as was Jimmy) to give you this precious last visit with him. I know you are thankful he did not have a long, painful, bedridden illness!. There is no easy way to say goodbye to your Daddy, but I have to say tHe way he said goodbye to you is one of the most beautiful, loving things I’ve ever heard!. You are an amazing, Godly woman. You and Nathan are in my prayers!! I love you!. Please give Nathan my love too!. Love, Martha W.

  6. I admire your wisdom Tam!! This is a beautiful perspective on your time with your daddy. It really makes you think. Thank you for sharing. You are in my prayers. ❤

  7. Angie

    Loved reading about you Daddys, Tammy. So glad you got that last Dance! May our Father give you peace and comfort. Love you!

  8. Tammy , this is such a beautiful story and tribute to your daddy’s love for you and your love for him. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I’ll be praying for you guys while you journey into another season of grieving. I’m so sorry, Tammy! Love you!

  9. Sissy

    I love you! Sorry I couldn’t be there today and tomorrow. I, too, have my own memories of him. Some I confused with the possibility of it actually being a re-hashed dream…. but regardless if I made up the memories, they were always good and the gentleman always had his face. (I have a LOT of memories from that house you grew up in- the one where I left my mark on the walls during nap- can’t explain why my brain retained so many from my childhood and so few from the most recent years.) I’m so thankful for your faith and your relationship with God…. you’ve had your share of conversations with him over the past year. Think of you all today! Xoxo love you all the way to heaven and back!

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