Being that I’m a fantasy author, you may think the Arthur I’m referring to is King Arthur. I will admit, during grade school and high school I spent a great deal of time reading Arthurian legends and watching Richard Harris in Camelot over and over and over. I read Excalibur so many times, the cover fell off. Alas, I’ve forgotten much of what I learned during that time, though Arthurian legends still hold a special spot in my heart.
In this case, however, the Arthur in question is a man of far more humble roots than the legendary king. It happens to be my father.
I have many memories of Dad, enough to fill an Arthurian-sized tome. Most of them, I have to say, make me smile.
See, living with Dad was usually never dull. He was definitely a disciplinarian, but he had a great sense of humor that he passed on to many of us. (Did I mention there were nine kids in all?) Although, I will admit, he likely found some of his stunts far funnier than the rest of us. Take for instance the day my mom and I heard him cry out, followed by the sound of something tumbling down the basement stairs and then a low moan. We raced from the dining room in a panic, certain Dad had taken a header down the steps, only to find nothing but an empty box at the bottom of the staircase. My father appeared from the room behind us, having a hearty laugh while we tried to still our frantically beating hearts and resist the urge to toss him down to join the box.
Yeah, my dad. He was quite the jokester at times. I guess with that many kids, it was that or go crazy.
Though we didn’t have a lot growing up, we still had plenty of family picnics at the house, outings to my aunt’s lake house, and trips up north to camp and fish. On those excursions, Dad would load several of us into his motorboat, on the back of which was perched the most gigantic Mercury outboard motor ever to be built. I swear. The thing was huge. Dad would sit back there, a smile on his face, and open her wide. We’d fly across the lake with the prow lifted high out of the water, leaping over waves, the spray in our faces. I loved every minute of it.
At home, Dad hauled us out to play football in the fall, volleyball or softball in the summer. He taught several of my siblings how to golf, a sport I never could embrace. When the weather kept us in, it was games of gypsy rat kill and spoons. I feel compelled to mention, we are a family that can turn a seemingly simple card game into a full-contact sport, occasionally drawing blood. Dad was brutal in those contests, sparing his children no mercy. If you were old enough to join in, you faced the same treatment as everyone else.
Sometimes a shadow slips across those good memories, replacing them with those of a man who struggled with health issues. Growing up, I recall him staying in bed for days on end with migraines so severe he’d bang his head against the wall to try and ease the pain. He was in and out of hospitals for that and other issues as far back as I can remember. He fought depression and, at times, struggled to hold a job until, eventually, he no longer could.
Dad taught me how to be tough, how to persevere, how to drive, and how to handle my car on the ice and snow. He instilled in me a love of the outdoors, respect for others, and that there are consequences to your actions. Above all else, he showed me that being a dreamer isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In my heart he is forever sitting in his great, wooden rocker, singing along to Hee Haw or the Grand Ole Opry, a pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth, and the rich scent of cherry tobacco surrounding him.
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