Remembering Dad

My father would have been ninety yesterday. If he had lived longer, if he hadn’t had dementia, if he hadn’t had to take psychotropic drugs and Alzheimer meds.

When I think of him now, I try to remember the good times, the funny things, the strong him, and not the man who heard voices and thought he was in the FBI.

One of those funny things happened repeatedly when I was a teenager. My home church, First Baptist, was always putting notices in the bulletin for people to sign up to stay in the nursery, to place flowers in the sanctuary, or to serve here or there. My best friend and I signed my dad up for everything. Without his knowledge, of course. We’d fill out his name on the form in the bulletin, add his phone number, tear it out, and place it appropriately in the offering plate.

Inevitably, the church would call. I would always answer the black-dial phone in the little hallway insert — the phone with the long cord that stretched into the next room, so I could talk to my boyfriend in private. I’d call my father out of his easy chair, away from the TV and some roasted peanuts he was always munching on.

He’d take the phone receiver.

“Mr. Hardy, it’s your turn to put flowers in the sanctuary.”

A brief conversation would ensue, and I would linger in hearing distance with my mouth clamped, refusing to show any emotion. The talking would always end with Dad saying, “Oh them girls did that!”

He’d hang up, look at me, his mouth curled up on one side, he’d chuckle much like my grandmother always did — a soft, bubbly laugh — and then he’d say, “Y’all got to quit doin’ that.”

We’d do it again. They’d call him to stay with the two-year-olds, and the same conversation would take place. It looks like those church women would have learned.

Dad always laughed. He never got mad. He took it in stride. I like that about him.

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