June 19, 2005

100 Things About My Father

1) He is in Alaska right now, celebrating being married to my mom for 44 years.
2) He still likes my mom.
3) A LOT.
4) He will watch any movie. No matter how bad. I have yet to find one he won't sit all the way through.
5) He sat all the way through National Treasure.
6) And Powder.
7) When my brother was stationed in Germany and they complained about the terrible German TV (Example: There was a game show called Tutti-Frutti where contestants could do strip-tease dances to gain extra points. The contestants were not necesarily chosen for their physical attractiveness...), My dad got HBO and Showtime specifically so he could tape movies, any movies at all, and mail them to my brother.
8) Dad ALMOST ALWAYS cut the last 5 to 15 minutes off the movies he taped.
9) My father always tries to do the right thing.
10) Always.
11) When I was 4, my mom got me I heart Daddy/ Daddy's Girl Pajamas.
12) Because I was a daddy's girl.
13) I still am.
14) He was a soldier when I was little. An Airborne Ranger.
15) It's both disconcerting and comforting to have a father who knows 60 bare-handed ways to kill any date of yours that gets fresh.
16) He did two tours in Vietnam when my brother was small.
17) My mother wouldn't have any more babies until he promised her would not go back to Vietnam. So he promised. Then they had me.
18) 18 months later he went and fought in Cambodia.
19) He maintains that it was NOT Vietnam. Technically.
20) He has true blue eyes.
21) There's a scene in gods in Alabama where two young girls are going to go out on a double date, and the father gives them change so they can call him if they need him to get them, and folding money so they can go someplace and get a coke while they wait for him to come. My dad always did that.
22) But other than that the father character is nothing like my father.
23) I have never seen my father leave my mother without kissing her goodbye.
24) When I was about 11, my father started asking me on dates.
25) He woul dtake me out, just us, for dinner and a movie.
26) I would dress up. So would he.
27) Once we went to a french place where the rolls came floating in a little butterlake and it was dim and fancy.
28) Other times we went for pizza.
29) On these dates, he always opened the doors for me and asked me questions and really listened to the answers and told me things about himself I hadn't known before. When I got old enough to begin dating, I expected boys to treat me that same way, and I didn't like them much if they didn't.
30) His mama did not raise any fools.
31) He is very reserved.
32) A "Well done" or an "I'm proud" from my dad means more than a ticker tape parade from anyone else.
33) When I was small, "making a spectacle" was the worst thing a child could do. A spectacle was anything LOUD or BOISTEROUS in a public place that wasn't a park.
34) Any child who made a spectacle would get their ear pinched in his famous Vulcan Ear-Death grip.
35) But he never once spanked me.
36) I remember when my brother and I had been heinous we would line up for spankings, and stand waiting to be spanked in the hall while he went to get the cat o' nine tails... but I never actually got spanked.
37) MY excessively loud little children are a constant, ongoing, walking spectacle, and my dad NEVER. MINDS. AT. ALL.
38) One of my first memories is looking at the bottoms of my father's feet when he had returned from Cambodia. They were so thick with callouses, they looked like hooves.
39) He is very good at contract bridge.
40) And chess.
41) He had to retire early from the military because he'd been soaking in Agent Orange for three years and it made him very sick.
42) He contracted a rare cancer of the blood, and he was supposed to die.
43) My mother had an oil portrait done of him, so we would know what our dad looked like.
44) He was and is very handsome.
45) They tried to prep us for his death, and perhaps I got over-prepped, because I would say things like, "If I am not dead on Friday, can you take me to see the new Benji movie?"
46) He didn't die.
47) He is stubborn and mighty like that.
48) He went to college on a football scholarship.
49) He was a kicker.
50) He's only 5'9" or so, and back when he played football, in the papers they called him "The little man with the gold toe."
51) My brother, who is a non-athletic brilliantly gifted sculptor, joined the army and became an arborne ranger too. He got out as soon as he could and went off to be an artist.
52) I often think it must have been hard to be my father's son, because my father is both a quietly good man and a larger than life hero---it's a lot to live up to...
53) It was excessively easy to be his daughter.
54) It still is.
55) I married a man who is practically my father's clone, only taller, because you know I like the high shoes.
56) It was the smartest thing I ever did.


57) Two days before my wedding, my father took me out on one last date, just us.
58) He gave me away.
59) Scott and I had a huge wedding. HUGE. An evening wedding, very formal-- I had a train that ended in another state, practically, and hundreds and hundreds of people were there. Standing in the nave with my father, I panicked. For no reason. I just did. I thought WHAT AM I DOING!?!?!?! And then I looked at my dad, and I thought, "Wait a sec! If I don't want to do this, ALL I HAVE TO DO is say so to my daddy, and he will stop the whole thing and make everyone go home, and fix it all." And I looked at my dad, and I knew it was true. I immediately calmed down and realized I DID want to marry Scott, more than anything, and so I smiled at my dad and the slutty wedding planner threw open the doors and we walked down the aisle.
60) His middle name is Harold.
61) If I am spoiled (and Scott assures me that I am) he had a BIG hand in it.
62) He refuses to ever buy movie popcorn because he thinks the price is obscene.
63) Unless one of his grandchildren wants it.
64) They went to eat at a steak house once, and it was BAD, and after that, whenever dad and mom would pass one of those steakhouses my mother would say, "Remember that awful meal? Everything tasted like soap." And my father would grimace and say, "I can still taste it." FOR YEARS this went on.
65) They would probably still be saying it, except that chain went out of business so they never pass one.
66) I have his nose.
67) My son has his athletic ability.
68) My daughter has his WILL.
69) My mother asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance when she was 15 and he was 16.
70) That's not true. My AUNT pretended to be my mother and called and asked him because my mother was too shy.
71) He was captain of his high school football team.
72) My father makes the best cinnamon toast that has ever existed upon the earth.
73) On my right ring finger, I always wear the pearl ring he gave my mother on her sixteenth birthday.
74) My kids call him Papa.
75) My parents were married when Mom was 19 and he was 20---neither of them has ever been in love with anyone else.
76) Not even a little bit.
77) When we were teenagers, my brother and I would walk in my parents in a liplock, and we would holler, "EW YA'LL! YUCK! QUIT IT" and they would laugh at us and kiss anyway.
78) My other aunt used to call my father a tightwad and enrage me.
79) He IS very careful with money. <--understatement
80) He had a paper route from the time he could walk until he went off to college, and when he graduated from high school he had half of every dime he had ever earned on it. AT LEAST A NICKEL of each dime was sitting in a savings account.
81) He spent it on my mother's engagement ring, a gorgeous one carat round cut stone in platinum.
82) In my parents teeny tiny Alabama home town, no one had ever seen anything like it.
83) When I told my mother that my Aunt had called him a tightwad, my mother smiled a little smile I did not understand at the time, and said, "When it is important, your father will spend the money."
84) Mom calls it her Paper Route Diamond.
85) For their 30th Anniversary, he got her a new diamond. She calls that one the paper WEIGHT diamond.
86) The best gift he has ever given me is the ability to be unabashedly proud of the kind of man my father is.
87) The worst gift he has ever given me is a Ginsu Knife.
88) He made me learn to drive a stick shift before I could go get my lisence.
89) Both cats and dogs like him, but he prefers dogs.
90) He used to take my brother hunting, and I begged and begged to go too, and so finally he relented when I was about 4. My mother packed us a lunch and little bags of cereal for a snack and off we went to hunt. When we got to the woods and my dad got the guns out of the back of the car, I started asking questions and I realized "hunting" meant "shooting birds dead." My eyes got big and my lips trembled, and my daddy put the guns back in the car adnd took me and my brother on an all day nature walk.
91) Using the cereal as bait, we caught 900 million crawdaddies and brought them home in a bucket.
92) When we got home, I realized my father intended to boil and eat the crawdads, and my eyes got big and my lips trembled, because by then they all had NAMES.
93) We kept them as pets.
94) Overnight they mostly got out of the bucket and crept into the yard and died and stank like the very bottom of briny hell.
95) My parents live in Alabama in a pretty house on a hill they call The Nob. It has a fishpond.
96) My father wages a constant war with the fat-bottom raccoons who come and eat his goldfish, and the little deers who come and eat mom's tulips.
97) He understands logical syllogisms.
98) He never tries to apply them to me.
99) When my mother was in labor with me, and they were wheeling her away to the delivery room, he called after her, "Please, Betty, try to have a girl."
100) When I KNOW I am doing something wrong and my conscience tells me not to, the voice in my head speaks very calmly and quietly and deliberately, very succinctly, and it wasn't until I was in my thirties that I realized my conscience speaks to me in his voice, and so in this way he will be with me, being my good wise daddy, until the day I die.

Posted by joshilyn at June 19, 2005 9:16 PM

Well geeze, that made me all weepy. (But in a good way.) Your father sounds like a wonderful person.

Posted by: DebR at June 19, 2005 10:04 PM

I'm sitting here with big tears in my eyes thinking of all the nice good things about my own daddy...I'm a daddy's girl, too. Ain't it grand?

Mr. Jackson, if you're reading this, you've raised one fine girl. I'm proud to know her, sir...all the more so after reading this post. Happy Father's Day!

Posted by: Amy at June 19, 2005 10:51 PM

Thank you for writing this. Father's Day is always a hard one for me. I stopped talking to mine when his wife told me eight years ago that he believes I caused my daughter's autism. In a way it was a relief, because he'd been a jerk for a long time and I finally got to exhale and say, "well, that's just so damn *stupid* I give up."

But even though it starts out sad, this day, I cheer up quickly, because my husband is an amazing father, and because there are so many other amazing fathers out there--a lot of whom have been great "dads" to me, without the least biological connection at all. They deserve to be celebrated EVERY day, those guys.

So here's a toast to all the fine men who care about kids, the dads like yours who are brave and dedicated and generous, no matter what. They send so much good into the world, and they make up for those sad guys who aren't able to shoulder parenthood themselves.

Posted by: Cornelia Read at June 19, 2005 11:30 PM

That was awesome.

I hope your dad reads it and sees himself through your eyes...Every dad should know when they're Superman. it sounds like yours was :)

Posted by: Thumper at June 20, 2005 1:50 AM

Oh man, now I miss my dad even more!!

Posted by: lizardek at June 20, 2005 3:18 AM

Damn. Damn, And damn.

I got here from a link left by lizardek on her livejournal blog. About what comes before "boom, bang".

So I read that and left a comment. Attempting at humour. Then passing the time of day i wandered back here. And read a hundred things about your father. Then I read "Vicious Gossip".

Damn. Damn. And damn. I may now have to sepnd the rest of my life reading all your other blog entries, and buying your book.

Then I might "interrogate" you about getting a literary agent. But for now I think I will sit under the eaves of a building somewhere, breathing slowly, watching the silver streaks of rain fall, and knowing you know how to write.

And I think, for now, that is more than enough.

Posted by: Dyvan at June 20, 2005 4:01 AM

Thanks for that delightful glimpse at your dad. He sounds like one of the all-time greats. I feel that way about my own dad too, who, at age 75 has still not retired because he's not done trying to make a difference in the world around him. The world could use more men like them. They're priceless treasures and all too rare.

Posted by: David at June 20, 2005 8:41 AM

That was truly lovely. I'm a Daddy's Girl too!

I have been reading your blog for weeks and LOVE it. I got your book from the library the day they got it and finished it in a day. WONDERFUL!

Thanks for sharing your life and your talent.

Posted by: Mim at June 20, 2005 9:07 AM

How lovely. *sigh*

Posted by: Mir at June 20, 2005 9:28 AM

My Dad is one of my Hero's.
While I am the oldest of 5 and my Dad worked a ton of overtime keeping us off welfare, he always made time and sacrificed to give us opportunitities.

He introduced us to his loves; trapping, hunting, archery, and helped us understand Nature's Balance. He was a championship level athlete and we took after him. I chose soccer over Football and he was never disappointed.

He never pressured us to be HIM. He just gave us what he had to give in time and knowledge. For those things he felt were important and he had no knowledge (computers in the 70's/early 80's), he spent what would have been money for HIS new gun or car or vacation to buy us a Sears Laser Apple IIe, a set of EXPENSIVE Encyclopedia's (which I read front to back), and more.

At the time it was hard because I saw my Dad less than I thought I should. Today, as a new father myself (2.5yo girl) I realize that the time he did give us was all the more precious. It was the quality, not the quantity. He could have been a welfare bum giving us all the time in the world and teaching is nothing. Instead he instilled in us a sense of responsibility to make the most of what we have, to strive to be a better person, and to take time to appreciate the things that mean the most to us.

My Dad is a pyscho good Archer, and it is really one of his passions. For me, it is nifty but not something I 'love'. I visited him this Fathers Day and it is my turn to repay the favor. I picked up a used bow, he fletched me some arrows and we shot a few rounds on his homemade range. I scored 'Perfects' at 20 and 30 yards after not shooting for 15 years. You should have seen the joy and pride on my Dads face. I have 33 years of appreciation to pay back, and I take every chance I can.

Posted by: Shawn B at June 20, 2005 9:54 AM

Bwahhh I just finished reading and BAWLING right at my desk at work. My co-workers walked by and gaped at me like I'm a loon.

So to make them cry I'm now forwarding the link to this blog entry and then they can have messy make up and snot running down their faces too.

I always wanted to be a Daddy's Girl. I guess I sort of was, even through a nasty divorce where I had to pick sides I tried to be a Daddy's Girl and keep it fair at the same time.

Posted by: Heather McCutcheon at June 20, 2005 11:57 AM

After my dad died, I wanted to write a piece to commemorate his life, but it always seemed too big, too difficult. With your list, you have shown me how to start. Thanks for sharing your love for your dad with us.

Posted by: Dara at June 20, 2005 1:24 PM

I have always thought of your dad as one of the most wonderful men in the world. He is one in a million!

Posted by: whitney at June 20, 2005 3:33 PM

Joss, thanks for describing your Dad with the list of 100 tidbits. Having worked for (and with) him for a few years, it is the best description I've ever read because it is right on target! (That from someone who is a non-relative!) You are truly a blessed young woman to have had such a great example in your dad. I would be lying if I did not 'ditto' that for your Mom too. I am enjoying your blog very much. Oh, yes, and I LOVED THE BOOK!!

Posted by: Sherrie at June 20, 2005 4:11 PM

What a wonderful post! I was a Daddy's Girl too :) Reading your list made me remember all the things my Dad and I used to do and it made me wish I still had him here with me.

Posted by: Linda D. at June 20, 2005 5:32 PM

Joss, unbelievable. I had to go to work early so I am thankful I waited until after my airshift to do my blogging, you made me cry. But now you've also given me a wonderful idea for my parents' 50th anniversary in August.

Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous love affair with the written word with the growing mass known as us - those who have become utterly smitten with everything that pops out of your computer.

blog on

Posted by: Cele at June 20, 2005 7:57 PM

I had to laugh about #15. The husband has plans, when the girls are old enough to date, to greet their suitors while cleaning his gun and telling stories about when he was an action guy. You know, the kind of stories that make them tremble with fear at the thought of even kissing that scary guy's little girl.

I love that my daughters are turning into daddy's girls.

Posted by: Jensgalore at June 20, 2005 11:16 PM

My father died March 2004 so Father's Day is tough for me. But reading your list reminded me of my dad; they have A LOT of similarities. My dad did multiple tours in Nam as well. [I found out a month before his death he was a sniper and it was SO hard to reconcile with the gentle man I knew.]

Thanks for sharing this personal tribute.


Posted by: Alicia at June 21, 2005 7:49 AM

Nice words about your Good Dad. I try to be a Good Dad myself everyday. Just got your gods of Alabama book in the mail yesterday. Three chapters in and loving it! Wonderfully excited to find your blog and plan to keep checking in. My blogger friend, aspiring writer A Southern Girl Speaks was recently told by a VERY FAMOUS writer friend that bloggers were amateur nimwits who were wasting their writing time. Glad to see another perspective here with you. Thanks for sharing your time with us!

Posted by: K. Brown at June 21, 2005 8:07 AM

Dear Joshilyn and other lovers of Southern writing,...recommend you check out http://asoutherngirlspeaks.blogspot.com/...

Posted by: K. Brown at June 21, 2005 10:08 AM