I turned on the radio today and it reminded me of the past. In an instant my nose became filled with the smell of smoke and bourbon. Jim Croce began to play and I saw you with eyes closed, cradling your cigarette close to your lips as the wisps reached their demise in the ceiling fan. Your knee bouncing to the rhythm of the music. As the song ended, your thirst beckoned and you passed me your glass. “Get me some more ice son.”, you slurred with a smile. The music you grew up with became the music I grew up with. No matter our differences, that was a bond as smooth as the whisky we sipped in the dead of night.
The radio droned on as I snapped back to reality. The sound of the machines interuppted the memories as I looked down at my hands. I thought about how as a child I would draw pictures of myself growing up in your shoes. I would always boast that your rough hands were “man hands” and I couldn’t wait to brandish a pair just like yours when I got older. You taught me most everything I know, like changing oil in cars and water filters under the house. We fixed everything from my first car to Moms’ heart after Maw Maw passed. Your hands were cut by sheet metal as mine have been tempered in fiber glass. I clenched my fist bearing the butterfly tattoo we share and felt the course skin on my palm. My man hands came in nicely.
All it took was a radio station to bring back so many memories. All those years where you came home from out of town… I remember digging in your lunchbox wondering whether I would find a surprise from your travels. The tools I found during the dig were taken for granted such as ear plugs, safety glasses, and gloves. Little did I know then, that I would one day wear them all. I remember wondering if I made you proud… I was never good at sports but longed to be for your sake. Homeruns and touchdowns made proud fathers. If only I could do that, I could maybe hold your attention. If only I knew that music gave you the same satisfaction, I would’ve played years before. No amount of applause from a crowd could move me more than the tears of pride in your eyes.
I have watched you for over twenty-five years. Through ups and downs, joy and tragedy, triumph and failure, richer and poorer, you have never faltered. Even now from the wheelchair that alleviates the pain from those damn knees you wish would work again, you are still the man who made me a man. From watching you work diligently, love deeply, care endlessly, and fight for the family you desired for so long, I find that my feet fit the footprints you left behind almost perfectly. I love you Dad and please don’t ever forget that. No matter how old I am, I will still look up to you.