Fifteen years ago today my father passed away. He was irrefutable evidence of the axiom that the nicest people in the world get cancer. Per his request, after he died, he was cremated. Now his soul is in Heaven while his Earthly remains are on the top of his dresser next to his french knot cufflinks and Aviators. When visiting me, Mom would put the Pop Box in the trunk of her Dodge Intrepid. When I saw Pop in her trunk and I questioned why his ashes were her plus one she replied that she was afraid that the house would catch fire and that his ashes would be burned. True story.
And why would she possibly see the irony in this? He was her person and she was his. A scrappy Detroiter, Pop moved to Houston to attend U of H and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. Mimi was a beautiful Chi-Omega from L.S.U. with a teaching job and a car. Just a few weeks after their blind date the young buck proposed. I remember my dad’s sisters telling me how shocked they were that he found someone like her. He wasn’t, his strategy was to ask out the really pretty girls which intimidated everyone else and make them laugh. Humor wins every time.
Pop was a hands-on father before men did that. He routinely took my two older brothers and me to The Herman Park Zoo while Mimi graded papers and frocked herself up a home perm. Because my father’s father was chronically ill, he gave us three the engagement he craved but never received in his youth. The singular time I saw my dad cry was at a family reunion when he recounted fishing trips with his much-older brother-in-law Paul whose fatherly kindness had a profound effect upon him. It was as if Pop couldn’t wait to have a family just to get it right.
Whatever I tried and whether I lost or won, I grew up knowing that I was totally adored. I was enough just by virtue that I was his child. There were certainly times when my infractions called for discipline but it truly did hurt him more than it did me. After all, he wanted everyone to like him. I knew that home was my soft place to fall in a cruel, cruel world. Even as a chubbette with a mushroom-cloud haircut and mosquito-bitten legs I didn’t need to be beautiful to be beautiful to him.
My father loved quotes. Pithy morsels of irony, humor or wisdom. These favorite sayings have have echoed in my brain today:
-The most expensive piece of clothing in your closet is the one you never wear. (He was a haberdasher.)
-Disappointment is based on expectations.
-Kisses aren’t contracts.
-Don’t sweat the small stuff.
-Birth control with your mother was easy. When she laid an egg I didn’t want I’d step on it.
-If you want to be interesting, ask people about themselves.
-Fashion is what they give you. Style is something you create on your own.
-If I had it to do all over again, I would pray more and worry less.
Rest in peace William Edward Richardson, Sr. We miss you every day.