My Father, My Daddy: Storyteller, “Scientist”, Coal Miner, Teacher

 Me and DadNever does a year pass on Father’s Day, that I don’t remember my own Father….who to me was called Daddy.  The term Daddy is an informal term of endearment for Father’s like mine.  My first memory of my Daddy was the image of a man leaning over my crib wearing in a red plaid cap.  If that is a true memory, I do not know, but nevertheless, that image is one I remember. 

Later, I remember the piggyback rides and I remember the storytelling   Saturday mornings were a special time because my Dad would be home and I would I snuggle beside him and ask him to tell me stories.  He wasn’t much of a reader, but he was a great storyteller.  I always asked to hear one special story over and over.  It was the story about a goose that injured a wing and was unable to fly south for the winter.  Staying behind when his mother and siblings flew away, Little Grey Neck had to try and avoid the Fox who was determined to have her for dinner as inch-by-inch the pond little began to freeze over, allowing the hungry fox to get closer and closer.  So if you think you ever had abandonment issues, at least you weren’t Little Grey Neck!   Nevertheless, the story has a good ending and I have spent my life trying to heal the wounded ever since! 

 Several Christmases ago, my daughter presented me with a VCR tape of the original animated cartoon of this story she had managed to find on the internet.   Immediately the memories flooded back as I watched that animated cartoon.   My children watched with me (as children often watch their parents, whether young or old), curious to see that legendary cartoon I had told them about so many times.   As I watched and the memories flooded back of my Daddy, who has since passed, my eyes welled with tears.  They thought it was because of the story itself, but for me it was the intense memories of my Daddy from the perspective of a small child and missing him that elicited strong emotions.   There are many, many Fathers, in this world today,  but far too few “Daddies.”  I believe our children’s lives and our global futures would be positively impacted if we only had more real Daddies.

I still remember the day my Daddy taught me how to tie my own shoes.  To this day, I haven’t met a single other person who ties their shoes the say way I tie mine.  Unique as the method is, what really matters is the final outcome and there are life lessons to be learned even in that simple example.  What my Daddy lacked in formal education was more than compensated by his abundance of common sense.   I learned to develop and use mine as well.  When you add formal education to common sense, it becomes an overflowing wellspring of knowledge that will serve you in your ability to communicate with people from all walks of life. 

My Daddy was also far ahead of his time, an untrained “scientist”  and a problem-solver.  He taught me, around the age of 7, about the Gate Control Theory of pain.  I wasn’t to be formally taught about this theory in terms of textbook knowledge until almost 30 years later when I was in nursing school.  How on Earth did a man with no formal education manage to teach by example the Gate Control Theory of pain management?   It happened the day I got a bee sting.   After the initial pain of the sting had passed, the intense swelling and itching began.  He was trying to keep these little fingers from scratching and making the problem worse.  What he did was teach by example how to take my finger and rub around and around the outer border of the area to relieve the itching.  It worked better than scratching for immediate relief of the sensation but without the trauma I could have caused with fingernails. 

But today I honor my Father—my Daddy—for the man he was, the integrity he had, the examples he lived before me and the strong work ethic he exhibited.  There was not a single lazy bone in that man’s 5 foot 5 inch body.   He started working in an underground coal mine at the age of 16 and eventually retired after 42 years of working underground to extract coal when he began having epileptic seizures and could no longer safely work around mining machinery.   X-rays of his lungs would show the extent of the damage of breathing coal dust and rock duct (silica) over a span of decades as he had both “black lung disease” (coal workers pneumoconiosis as well as silicosis)  In spite of his circumstances of growing up in a large family in extremely tough times and living through The Great Depression, he has a spark for life and a sense of humor I will never forget.

In my Daddy’s “free” time,  he was always busy with a purpose,  hunting for wild game or raising a garden just to help provide food for our family.  I spent a lot of time helping him plant, hoe and harvest the crops he raised.  Don’t you just love the law of sowing and reaping?  You reap what you sow, you reap later than you sow, and you reap more than you sow.   So if you sow and sow and plant enough seed, eventually you will reap a harvest if you do not quit. My Daddy had faith that when he planted, eventually there would be a harvest.  Our family depended on that harvest.  So it is with all things in life!   Once the harvest came, I spent a good deal more time helping my mother preserve the abundance  of my Daddy’s harvest to last us through the winter months.  There is nothing that tastes better than fresh vegetables from your own garden!

 Daddy was also quite the banjo picker, but only for private performances for the family.  He would sing and play that banjo clawhammer style and sometimes even dance at the same time.  His infamous “bottle rump Jim” dance would leave us in stitches as this wiry little Irishman did a hilarious version of an Irish jig.    When he wasn’t playing a banjo, he was playing a juice harp.   A merry heart truly is like a good medicine!  In spite of all his hard work, he found time (though too little of it) to sing and dance.

I remember asking my Dad once what would have been his dream job if he hadn’t been a coal miner.  After a moment of silent reflection, he would always say he “couldn’t think of anything else.”   I wonder if it was because mining was all he ever knew or because of the limits imposed by his lack of formal education.  In either case, my Daddy’s circumstances had caused him to lose the ability to dream.  His “world” did not expand beyond those mountain ridges of Eastern Kentucky he knew as home.  

I thank God for the gift of my Daddy and the blessing he was to my life.  He taught me many things without realizing it.  He taught me the blessings of family and the value of being able to relate to and empathize with people.  He taught me humility and he taught me to work hard and do my best.  He taught me, by the lack of his own dreams, and through his storytelling, how to have dreams of my own.  

He did not dream, as I always did, about what was waiting on the other side of those mountaintops. I remember lying across my bed as a young teen, listening to music and wondering what the world was like on the other side of those mountains.  Every time a heard a train whistle is the distance, I wondered where it came from and where it was going.  I have seen and experienced some of the world beyond those mountains, traveling across the U.S. and to a few other countries, but there is so much more to see!

Sometimes it is tough circumstances or a health crisis that causes us to lose our ability to dream.   Sometimes we just become so focused on getting an education, raising our  children and keeping up with all their extracurricular activities, performing our jobs and just meeting our obligations,  we lose sight of what it is like to actually have dreams of our own.

I honor my Daddy and I recognize  the value and necessity of all his hard work.  I wish now I had had more time with my Daddy instead of just those Saturday mornings I remember so well from childhood.  I wish he hadn’t had to work so hard and had had more time to play.  But he was always busy with a purpose, trying to provide for our family.   

 Even in my own life as I raised my own children, I wish I had had more time to play, to spend time with my children and to travel.  I would have done that more if I had had the financial means   However, as a nurse, I was never even sure I was going to have a weekend with them, or a holiday because I didn’t have financial freedom. I couldn’t tell you how many special occasions I had to miss because I was helping take care of other people.  But as the years have passed, I am reassessing and re-evaluating, as nurses often do,  and I don’t want to miss anything else! 

One of my favorite quotes is by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)   “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

 T.E. LawrenceSeven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

 What about you?  Do you simply dream of having more “free time” with your family to do the things you love?  Would you rather be a ‘dreamer of the day’ and make your dreams a reality?

 There is an opportunity waiting.  It is a REAL opportunity to be able to supplement your income without having to take a second or third job.  You don’t need to work harder; maybe you just need to work smarter.   Instead of working to make the stockholders, CEOs and Boards of Directors rich, perhaps you should invest your energy into generating income from home.   If you are looking for an income opportunity, send me a message.

Let the dreams begin! 

 For more information:

 Pam Baker, RN

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