Daddy is an imposing figure: 6’ 4 ¾” and at least 230 lbs, 230 lbs that he carries very well. Sean Connery looks like my father.
I am the eldest of six. My mother was a nurse, but for most of my life, she was a stay at home mom. She is a phenomenal woman. She raised six children and continues to provide love and support to all of us even though most of us are married with our own children. Daddy was an army officer, and spent a great deal of time outside the home on assignment and on duty.
If I had to choose one word to sum up to describe Daddy it would be “dutiful”. He was a conscientious provider, protector and supporter. He was (still is) a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and he did his best to pass on his beliefs in word and deed to all of us. And even though Mummy did the day to day nurturing and raising of the children, a lot of what I am today, how I feel about myself and my approach to life are as a result of things my father said to me. I found myself telling my own daughter about one particular thing he once told me this week, and I started reflecting on things my father said. Tomorrow is celebrated this side of the world as Father’s Day, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to share with him, and you, the impression he made on me with some of the things he said to me.
“TELL THEM TO GO TO HELL”
I was about 14 years old. We were at the pool. We spent a lot of time at the pool. I loved the water….had been swimming since I was little. That day, there were strangers at the pool. Daddy noticed me sitting in the shade watching everyone else enjoy themselves.
“Why aren’t you swimming? You love the water” he remarked with concern.
I squirmed. I tried to evade his question. You see…I was fat, and very, very self-conscious of my beyond average body type and size. I eventually caved and mumbled something along the lines of “I feel funny swimming with all these strange people around….”
He said: “What? What? Listen: you swim! If anybody looks at you for a second longer than you like, you can tell them to GO TO HELL!”
I was shocked! My father, the Preacher and the Soldier, gave me permission to tell anyone who made me feel funny to GO TO HELL. Man! I didn’t swim that day. But I felt all warm inside. Daddy was on my side. It wasn’t all that bad. I’ve never forgotten that. I dealt with body issues well into my 30s, but I never forgot the day that Daddy gave me permission to tell them to go to hell.
“DON’T STAND ON THE SKYLINE”
We have such great memories of all the hikes that Daddy took us on. He used those opportunities to teach us the finer points of map reading and field craft. My poor navigation skills today are in no way related to my upbringing! We climbed Catherine Peak, Mt. Horeb, Clifton Mount and Blue Mountain Peak.
“Look up there. That’s the skyline. Do you see how easy it is to see the trees that are on the skyline? In war you never stand on the skyline unless you are waiting to be rescued. The enemy will pick you off before you know what ‘s happening.”
I have never forgotten that. Do your job. Don’t jockey for visibility unless you are very clear in your mind why you are deliberately putting yourself out there. And when it is time for you to be seen, stand up tall on that skyline and wave for all you’re worth. Enough said. You get it.
“I LIKE THE WAY YOU WALK”
“I like the way you walk, Kelly”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I like the way you walk. You walk like you mean business. You stride! I like that”
I wasn’t aware that I had a walk. I wasn’t aware that I strode! But Daddy was. And he was impressed. And that was enough for me. To this day I walk as if I own the land. In another life, I was responsible for a warehouse with over 60 men. I used to assemble them all together on a regular basis to keep them in the loop and to give them the opportunity to give me feedback as to their own issues. I’d walk into the middle of the assembled group and chair that meeting. After I left that job, I was told that the female security guards who were posted in the warehouse, and who remained at their posts during those meetings would say that they loved how Ms Mac would just walk up… just stride up!… and stand up and take charge. They said that they felt so inspired after those meeting, even though they knew I wasn’t speaking to them…that it was so awesome to see a woman take charge in the way that I did. Selah. Daddy told me that he liked my stride. So I kept striding. I stride on today.
“YOU’D MAKE A FINE OFFICER”
I was 16 and trying to decide what to do with my life.
“You’d make a fine officer, Kelly”
What? Who me? You’re crazy! No way!
And I had no desire to leave my very strict and regimented childhood just to enter another strict and regimented life in the military. But I was touched. And I’ve never forgotten. You see, to my mind, Daddy was THE BEST OFFICER IN THE WORLD. He was so handsome in his army uniforms…all of them, any one of them…from his number ones to his fatigues. He was so capable. I saw him on parade. I heard him on the phone. I saw him with the men when I visited his office, when they come to the house, when we visited various military bases across the island. My own daughter remarked that I’d be totally scary as an officer when I told her what Daddy said. Well I never became an officer, but that the best officer in the world told me that I’d make a fine officer…well… it meant that I was pretty good, and I’ve never forgotten that.
And there’s so much more that Daddy taught me. He remains one of my biggest supporters (he thinks I can sing!). He once told me and Little Sister: “You girls could rule the world!” and I think he really meant it! I’m told that you named me Kelly. We now know what Kelly means. There can be no retreat, no surrender.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thanks for being the Father you are. I love you.