It hardly seems possible but it has been 19 years since the death of my father. To be accurate, it will be 19 years on the 5th of May. At this time, it is Dad that I keep thinking about. We live on but that which is in the past seems to return and visits us every year.
Dad and I certainly had our challenges; with each other, with my spiritual beliefs that differed from his own, Family challenges, as well. Both he and my mother spent years fighting until, I guess, there was nothing left to fight about. I suspect that as they aged, all the little things became less important.
Dad changed jobs often; he had a very large family of girls to support. Food seemed in short supply and it was not uncommon to have our power shut-off. One time he was so mad at the telephone company that he took the phone off the wall, took it apart and mailed back all the pieces. He said that until the ‘dadgum’ telephone company changed its attitude he was not having a phone!! To a little kid it seemed like it was years before we had the luxury of a telephone again. If someone got in our face, he’d be right back at them. I thought I had the coolest dad in the world. ‘Dadgum” and ‘cussed’ were his favorite adjectives. I never heard a swear word leave his mouth, never.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have this thing about counting your time spent in the effort of converting others. Dad was one of the elders at the Kingdom Hall and had been since before they called them elders. So, as an elder, he had to maintain some sort of hour average. Now here is man that has all these children and, at that time, a full time job plus 5 witness meetings a week and someone starts fussing about ‘how many hours’ he is spending in the preaching work. Dad was so mad… He raved all the way home from the Kingdom Hall. I leaned across to my sister, Janice, and said “Boy, are they going to get it!” Dad was hard of hearing so everything was yelled. We thought he had such power. In a way he did… He stopped reporting any time at all and it took a Circuit Overseer (Oversees a large group of Kingdom Halls) to straighten that one out.
My dad taught me that ethics is something deep inside that guides your life. He would always say it was in the ‘seat of your pants’. He’d say “You don’t have to read the Watchtower to know that you just don’t go out and kill somebody!” I must have heard that a thousand times. He stood in his truth even though it differed from mine. His yes always meant yes and his no always meant no. When I went over and told him that I was leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses he was so disappointed in me. He was very clear he didn’t agree with me but he said that as long as I was his daughter, I would remain part of his family. Those words were honored until his death in 1993.
The last time I saw my dad was about 6 weeks before his death. He was so weak that he could hardly hold up his head. Every time I would try and talk to him, my mother would start to sing at the very top of her lungs. He just shook his head, too weak to do anything else. I hugged him and told him I loved him. I cried all the way home.
Susan Banner Todd
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