061619 OPED conner art

PHOTO COURTESY OF AUTHOR

Phil King with daughters Angie (left), Starla (right), and Celeste (on shoulders)

I've never particularly cared for Hallmark holidays. Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Valentine's Day often cause more angst in folks than happy feelings. Sometimes, the heartache of not having weighs heavier than the joy of having brings delight. (Plus, being a tad passive-aggressive, I wouldn’t dare let a business tell me when to tell my beloveds that they are loved.)

Mother's Day made me cry when I ached to be a mama. It made me cry again when I lost Mama awfully and too young. (One year, after my sisters left home, I wanted to be a grownup and ordered corsages for Mama and Granny to wear to church. I called Art’s Florist, and Beth asked red or white ribbon. I thought, “Who wants a red ribbon on a flower in springtime?” So, I ordered two white ribbons. Mama smiled and didn’t tell me what I had done, as she sat by Granny in big church. If you’re a deep-rooted Southerner, you already know that white means your own mother is dead.)

I’ve had a Valentine since my senior year in high school. I never thought I was greater than because I did. I regret that some folks feel less-than because companies that sell cards, flowers, and chocolate need to pay their employees and rent. (I’d stay off Facebook on Valentine’s Day if I were single, like I do when Bama plays for the national championship.) I doubt Chuck and I have ever been out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Love doesn’t mean waiting an hour for a table. (#TweetThat) We began celebrating when our twin premies were discharged from the hospital on Feb. 14. We brought them home to a blooming Japanese magnolia tree in the front yard.

Father’s Day was the worst of all—a nightmare, until my daughters redeemed it.

My daddy died when I was 12 years old.

That sentence is one of the central themes of my life. It’s the sentence that shifted the tracks. It's the event from which all my other events hang. It directed my path to a spouse who makes me laugh. It affected how I raised my children and tried not to get bent out of shape at things that didn’t matter and led me to apologize when I overreacted and blew it. It caused my family’s move back to Dothan to look after Mama when she was ill, because her love wasn’t here to take care of her. It made my sisters and me determined to remain tightknit. “If Daddy hadn’t died” has begun a gazillion family conversations. Mama bore her burdens on her own. Daddy wasn’t here to walk his daughters down the aisle. We didn’t have him long enough. We didn’t get enough of him.

The absence of him colored every facet of Mama, my sisters, and me. But the presence of him still guides the branches of his family tree. We watched him count it all joy. And so we are obliged to, too.

Now, on this my 41st Father's Day without a father, here are my thoughts:

I had a good father, who had a good father, who had a good father. I married a man who is a good father, who has a good father, who had a good father. I know so many good fathers. I think good is enough. Average is excellent. Above average is near ‘bout impossible.

I am unbelievably privileged. I can’t fathom how privileged I am. I hope you are, too. There is so much wrong with this world, but there is so much right. And a good father covers a multitude of hurt.

Celeste King Conner has to write about her daddy. Tell her about your daddy at celestekconner@comcast.net.

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