A father is a precious thing. You know when you lose yours, through death or desertion, that a father's absence leaves a big hole in your life.
It was a regular summer day, August 8, 1984. We had been out for a picnic in the heat and were glad to be back home. The phone rang. My mother answered the call that changed our lives forever. My father, at age 42, had suffered a heart attack while walking his postal route in a large suburb. One of the homeowners found him. Death was instantaneous.
It was one week before my 11th birthday and 3 weeks before my younger brother's 9th birthday. My sister had only been married 5 months and my older brother was about to head back to college.
Our lives crumbled around us. My father, George Nichols, was one of those men. You know the kind - the kind you always wish was your dad. He was funny, at least in my little girl eyes. He was loving. He always had time for me. I remember his enjoyment of cartoons, and the funny way he said jello (it always got a laugh). I remember standing at his knees while he played guitar and sang. I remember him letting me stroke the guitar strings and I remember him singing "Puff the Magic Dragon", "Mountain Dew", and "Froggy Went A'Courtin'".
He was a mailman. Yup, that is right. A simple mailman. He never had high ambitions and fancy dreams. He wanted to be a good husband and father. He was both. He loved people and got to know many of the people on his routes throughout the years. He even once received a invitation to Gladys Harrington's birthday (She was around 90, I think , at the time. She was one of the important people who helped grow Plano, Texas from a farm town to an important suburb. My father delivered mail to her for a while). My mom threw the invitation away, thinking it was just a city-wide event- junk mail, basically! When Mrs. Harrington expressed her sorrow that she missed my father at her birthday, they realized it was a personal invitation to a private event!
My father left a huge gap in our hearts and lives. My mother fought to carry on, and boy, did she! She eaned her nursing degree and finished raising my younger brother and myself. Pretty impressive. But she could never marry again. I asked her why, once. She replied, "It wouldn't be fair to another man. I would always be comparing him to your father."
I am so grateful this Father's Day to have had such love from an earthly father, even if only for 10 years. I am also grateful to all the other men who stepped up to mentor me in my youth. I never looked for a father-figure, because I never wanted one. I was happy to have my father's influence in my life, and did not need a replacement. However, some men were kind enough to help me along the way, just by being "dad" for a sad girl's heart. My life is a living legacy to those men who fathered me along the way.