"Call me Ishmael." Perhaps you recognize the opening words from Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick, but when I hear these words, I don't think of tossing seas, whaling boats, and Captain Ahab! I think of one of the most important men in my life -- my dad. For years, I thought Moby Dick was his favorite novel, only to find out a few months ago that it wasn't! Middlemarch has that distinction! In fact he confessed to me that there were some portions of Moby Dick that he hadn't even read, so I guess I need no longer feel guilty about using Cliff's Notes!
Life with my dad was great! My dad was one of the funniest men I knew. Somehow, whenever I was down, he had a way of bringing a smile to my face and making me laugh again. We sometimes jokingly called our house, "Perry's Nut House" because of some of Dad's crazy antics. It's been said, "one of the best things a man can have up his sleeve is a funny bone." Dad certainly had that! He could see the humorous in any situation. He belonged to the RCA record club for a short time. He kept receiving computerized statements but no lp's. While others may have chosen to phone or write the company with threats or anger, he decided to write a letter that went something like this: "Dear Sirs: I have sent my money. Please send me my records. Please send me my records. Please send me my records. Please send me my records..." I don't remember how the company responded, but I suspect that it brightened someone's day!
I recall a school morning when Dad came to wake me up with a sheet draped around him Statue of Liberty style and a flashlight raised in the air, very dramatically singing "Rise and shine!" What a great way to start the day!
Dad was also clever at making up limericks. I still remember the one he made up for me:
"There was a young girl named Jane;
She slipped when she fell off the train.
"Oh, oh," she cried, "I might have died
for I have injured my brain!"
His students at Fayetteville High School waited each year for him to jump on top of his desk and shout, "Thar she blows!" while pretending to harpoon a whale with a pencil! The truth is, he only did this once, but ask any of his students and they'll tell you about it as if they each saw it happen! A true legend!
Dad chose his epitaph many years ago. He wanted it to read "Hairy Perry -- Worm Meat!"
Somehow I don't think we will be able to fulfill that wish! I choose rather to say, "He was a good man!"
Not only was my father a man with a positive outlook toward life, but he was also one of the best friends I ever had. We used to have such great conversations; I never ceased to learn from him. He was always there for me and I have wonderful memories of him: pimento cheese on anything; Miracle Whip on just about everything; helping me bake my first cake; rolling my hair in pink sponge rollers on Saturday nights; holding me by the hand as we walked home from church on Sunday evenings while he pointed out the constellations. He gave me my first corsage and my first bottle of cologne. He never missed a program or a concert of mine. He was there to encourage me, to congratulate my successes and to bolster me when I failed. A girl couldn't have asked for a better father!
If any one person is responsible for leading me to Christ, he was the one! His example and Biblical teaching influenced me more than any one else. In him I saw the image of Christ. His words to me as I left for Bible college, "Jane, lose your life in Jesus," have remained as a compass throughout my life. I miss his spiritual guidance.
Thoreau said, "A friend is one who incessantly pays us the compliment of expecting from us all the virtues and can appreciate them in us." My father expected the best of me. I hope I never disappointed him. I want to be everything he expected me to be and I know he never expected me to be something that I'm not or cannot be.
In his poem, "Encouraged" Paul Lawrence Dunbar expresses my feelings for my dad:
"Because you love me I have much achieved,
Had you despised me, then I must have failed,
But since I know you trusted and believed,
I could not disappoint you,
Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." I can't think of a more fitting verse for my dad unless it's Psalm 116:15: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
Dad, I miss you! (March 24, 2010 - his birthday)