Father’s Day has never been an easy time for me. Don’t get me wrong, my daddy, Earl Hiers, was the most marvelous man God ever put breath in. He had a big, beautiful, bright smile. And everybody that met him loved him, but no one more than I did. I can remember having to prepare him for my report card, which wasn’t good at all. I said, “Diddy”—that’s how it would come out—“I failed algebra again.” And he’d just smile and say, “Blue, honey, that’s alright because pies were always round to me, they weren’t never square” (he took to calling me Blue because my hair was dyed so black it was blue). So he and his Blue would have a good laugh and not worry too much about that algebra.
You see, Daddy liked to laugh in spite of what the world threw at him. He lost his leg at 16 after he was hit on his bike by a car. It was amputated above the knee. Afterward, he told his momma that he was glad it had happened to him and not one of the other kids, because he could handle it. And that’s just what he did. Everyday he wore this huge, heavy wooden leg and never complained one time. I can still see it standing up in the corner of the bedroom, his pants still on it. Sometimes he’d pretend to get angry and stick a pocketknife right into his leg, just for a laugh. That about gave people a heart attack. In the summer, he would swim with us at night after everybody was gone, so he could take that leg off without frightening anybody. That’s the kind of man he was.
No, my Daddy was a loving father; the problem is I had him for such a short time.
He died in 1966, two days before Father’s Day. He was just 40-years-old. I was 19 and a new bride, certain that I had everything in life all figured out. I had just picked Daddy up one of those silky, white nylon dress shirts that was so popular at the time and was gonna wrap it up as a gift. But he passed away before I could surprise him with it, before he could ever know how good it would feel against his skin. Daddy was buried in that shirt.
They said Daddy had rheumatic fever as a child and that’s what damaged his heart. He survived a valve replacement surgery at Emory University Hospital, but a few months later a blood clot traveled to his brain and killed him. It was the only time I saw him without a smile and mine left with his for some time. After his death I started battling agoraphobia, fearing for my own life at every turn.
It took me years to admit that he wasn’t perfect. You know, he was a dad when it was a man’s world. Momma ran the house, did the discipline, everything. Nothing was required of him but to make a living, and then he did as he damned well pleased. Daddy was governor of the Moose Lodge and he’d stay there late and then go play cards with his buddies, sometimes not coming home until the next morning. Momma never said anything about it, but I know it caused her a lot of heartache. She’d go looking for his car in the middle of the night, just to make sure he was alright.
Even so, my Daddy taught me the importance of family. I remember when I was just married and working at the bank and I went a whole week and didn’t visit my daddy. When I finally came to the house, Daddy sat me down and said, “Blue, honey, I’m gonna tell you something right now. Don’t you ever go one week without me seeing you.” So I didn’t. Today, I hope he can see me ‘cause I sure miss seeing him.
So here’s to all the Daddys out there like mine who thought their children hung the moon. I wish y’all the happiest Father’s Day.