Today would be daddy’s 97th birthday if he were still alive. Foy Hart Holden was a man who lived his life with a determination to be more than a farmer in the mountains of western North Carolina. While gardening was something daddy loved to do, he did not want it to be his occupation. Like his father, Flave, daddy loved making things grow, but he was not going to live on a farm for the rest of his life. Foy was the oldest of nine children, and he often went along on his father’s trips to Greenville, South Carolina to sell vegetables at the market. He loved the trips, and I’m sure they fueled his desire to leave the mountains.
Daddy, mama, and Ann did move to Atlanta as soon as he got out of the army. Mama hated Atlanta and cried for a year after they moved. Daddy would not return to the mountains, so they ended up settling in Hickory, North Carolina. Mama could see her beloved mountains, and daddy could have his city life, even if it wasn’t a big city as he would have preferred. Once, on a visit to see me in the mountains, daddy told me that he worked his tail off to get out of the mountains, and I ran right back to up to them. He asked me what that said about me, and I told him that it said I was smarter than he was. I could see a little grin on his face as he realized I might be right, for once:)
Daddy was discontent much of the time, and I believe his angst was about always wanting more. There’s nothing wrong with ambition, but dreams were deferred in both his and mama’s life. When I read the poem, “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, I think of my parents. Mama’s did “crust and sugar – over like a syrupy sweet” and daddy’s would “explode” on occasion when he turned to alcohol to relieve his stress. I bore the brunt of those explosions, but I remember and thank God for is the happy ending He gave to daddy and me.
Tyler and I were in Hickory for a visit when daddy had a stroke. Mother didn’t wake me up when it happened because she wasn’t sure what was happening. I immediately called the hospital when I saw him, and they told me it would be best for me to bring him in rather than call an ambulance. He was calm and had been up most of the night talking nonsense. We didn’t want to scare him, so I told him we were going for a ride. I’ve never been more afraid in my life.
The hospital was being renovated, and they had given me directions for navigating the construction. It turned out that daddy and I had to walk a distance to get where we needed to go, and I wasn’t sure he could make it. I was shocked at his childlike manner. He did whatever I asked him to do without complaint or his usual colorful vocabulary. I knew something was terribly wrong, and that was verified when we saw the doctor.
I was surprised by the calm demeanor of the doctor. He began a conversation with daddy and acted as though we were all sitting on the porch sipping lemonade. I expected more rushing around and thought they would whisk daddy away as soon as we walked in. I listened and kept quiet while the doctor asked daddy questions about the date, the president, the news, and his family. I did my best not to let daddy see the shock on my face as his answers showed serious problems with his thought process. I’d never seen anything quiet so confusing, but the doctor seemed to know what he was doing. He looked at me, smiled, and said calmly that daddy was fine, but they wanted to keep him overnight so he could rest. He sure didn’t seem fine to me, but I breathed a sign of relief at the news and left when they said they needed to get him ready.
My nephew, Steven, was at the hospital by the time the interview was over, and I told him what the doctor had just told me. He quickly went to call my sister and her husband who were at the beach on vacation. As soon as Steven came back from making the calls, the doctor came out of the room where the interview had taken place. He looked directly at me and said in a very different tone that daddy had suffered a massive hemorrhaging stroke at the base of his brain, and he should be dead. Steven and I were shocked and realized the conversation in front of daddy was simply to keep him calm. Now that he wasn’t in the room, the doctor’s calm dissipated, and he was clearly rushing to find answers in regard to treatment. Steven returned to the hallway to make new calls, and I called my other two sisters with the news. I decided to tell mother the candy-coated version until my sisters arrived.
I went looking for daddy and found him lying on a gurney in the hallway. I saw something I had never seen before, fear in my daddy’s eyes. This mountain of a man who put fear into me for so much of my life was suddenly looking at me with eyes that spoke volumes, but his mind and mouth forbid communicating. I didn’t need to hear his words; I saw love and sorrow in his eyes and knew without hearing what he was thinking in that brief moment of clarity God provided for our hearts. I held his hand and told him that I loved him and that I knew he had loved me the best way he knew how. I told him I had no hard feelings and would not leave him alone. I wish I could explain the exquisite feeling of freedom his look and my words brought to my heart, but there aren’t words that describe the peace that surrounded both of us for a beautiful moment before he was whisked away.
Daddy healed physically, but his mind was never the same. He was confused about so very much, but he always knew who I was and brightened up when he saw me. He was a die-hard Democrat before the stroke, but all he talked about after his stroke was George and Barbara Bush. He was convinced they came to see him on a regular basis. I think he might have had a crush on Barbara because he talked about her the most. I agreed with everything daddy said and enjoyed our new relationship and our interesting conversations. It was the happy ending my heart needed, and I thank God for the healing and the love that took place between daddy and me.
Life is very short, but love goes on forever. When I think of daddy now, I think of those silly conversations about George and Barbara Bush or the fact that he thought he was in charge of the rehabilitation home where he spent his last days walking up and down the hallway making sure everyone was okay. Daddy was a worker, and he taught me much about working and about making a living. I thought of him on Thursday when God made me decide if I was going to live in His Spirit or in my flesh.
God reminded me that He and daddy agreed on who I was and what was best for my heart. I had to smile because I could see daddy in the background with a big smile on his face, shaking his head in agreement with our heavenly Father. That made the decision much easier, and the image of my daddy and my Father will help me if I ever forget to see myself as they do. Both want me to live and love in God’s Holy Spirit, and I want the same thing. I did inherit my daddy’s stubbornness, and that’s handy when it comes to making a decision and sticking to it. I pray it will help me remember that I want my daddy and my Father to be proud of me, and I want to be proud of myself too. As Pastor Jeff reminded me this morning. He is my God and I am His daughter. It was nice to learn that I’m also my daddy’s girl, and he was proud of me this week:)
Happy Father’s Day daddy!! I love you and thank you and my heavenly Father for helping me take a very big step this week. I know I can live and love in God’s Spirit with the help of both my fathers:)