Remembering Jamie - my dad and childhood hero

When I was a little girl, my dad Jamie was my hero.

Before Jamie, my mama had the courage to leave an abusive marriage and start our lives anew. Mama worked as a waitress in a small Kentucky town diner. She did her best to make the ends meet for us. One ordinary day, Jamie walked into the diner and they struck up a conversation. It did not take long for them to fall in love.

I loved Jamie the moment that I met him. He would often sit at the diner counter and smile at my mama. One of my earliest memories was the moment that my mama let me know that Jamie asked her to marry him. We were all in Big K shopping together. I stood on Jamie's feet, held his hands, and said, "But I wanted you to marry me." I clearly remember him holding us together in a circle and he let me know that he was going to be my daddy.
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Jamie and mama married in July of 1977. I was three years old and over the moon about our new family.
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There are so many things I love and remember about Jamie.

  • My mama and I were his world.
  • He took me to see my mama at the diner everyday before school.
  • He always wore a Levi denim hat.
  • He loved Elvis, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels Band, and Waylon Jennings.
  • He carried my folded-up report cards in his wallet and bragged on me to everyone.
  • He would play "Love Me Tender" by Elvis and dance with my mama.
  • Every Sunday, we would go visit my Grandma Marie. Family was important to him.
  • He loved motorcycles.
  • He had an old Ford pick-up.
  • He later had an old El Camino that he spray-painted several different colors. 
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In June of 1984, three days before school let out for the summer, Jamie died. I was ten years old and in fifth grade. My dad was frequently sick from the complications of diabetes. That summer afternoon in June he was not feeling well and we went home so he could rest. As he put the key in our apartment door, he collapsed right in front of me from a heart attack. His knees buckled and he slowly crumpled to the floor. He did not die immediately. The paramedics came to transport him to the hospital. At the time, my parents were working at the county jail and we lived in an apartment in the middle of the jail. The paramedics worked on reviving my dad and they loaded him on the gurney. We lived on the second floor of the jail and had an elevator.

As a ten year old, the entire situation was a bit surreal. I did not understand what happened to my dad and I was filled with fear. I remember trying to get near his gurney to hold and love him. It was such a frantic time and there really was not any room for me to be near him. The paramedics wheeled him onto the elevator facing me. I stood in the hallway looking at him being wheeled on the elevator.

It was so final. I did not know what to say or do.

He was very weak but he lifted himself slightly, looked into my eyes, and weakly exclaimed, "Sharra, I love you."

I opened my mouth but I could not say anything. I was frozen by fear and uncertainty.

The elevator door shut.

I stood in the hallway and felt like I had lost my entire world. He died at the hospital.

This memory filled my mind with regret for most of my childhood and young adult years. Looking back, I now have peace. I know that he deeply loved us with all of his heart. I know that he knew that we deeply loved him. Death has such a cruel finality to it that no matter the circumstance, I would not have been prepared to say goodbye to my dad.

Today, I remember the memory of his life and love. It is his birthday. I miss him.

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