12.14.2005

Happy birthday Dad


Ronald M. H., Jr.
"Nat"
1947-2005



Today is my dad's birthday. He would've been 58 today, but unfortunately he passed away four months ago.

Everyone knows the troubled relationship I had with my Dad when I was younger. He was a hard-living, hard-drugging, hard-drinking, motorcycle riding, womanizing, cuss-word loving man! lol I used to really hate all of these things about him and some I still do. Alot of those things are what led to his downfall....too many drugs=stroke, etc. But what has happened is that I've come to accept those things as "him" and honor him in-spite of himself.
I look alot like my mom but I look most like my dad. He was the biggest, strongest man I knew when I was a little girl! He was 6'2" and about 200#. He always had dark hair (just like mine) and a mustache. Sometimes a beard. Blue eyes. And he had a deep voice. Actually, you know who sounds like my dad when I hear him talk? Hulk Hogan. LOL Except my dads voice was just a little bit deeper.

He was a mechanic. He was also a motorcycle lover. He always had a new or different bike in the garage working on it. My mom says that she was so upset when I was born because she wanted a pretty, spotless, pink nursery for her new baby girl but because it was January and too cold to work outside he brought his motorcycle parts into the house and turned my nursery into his temporary garage! A pink layette and black grease...not a great mix. I was terrified as a little girl whenever I'd spend the night at his house because my "nightlight" was an 11x14 picture lit from below (museum style) picture of the band KISS!!!! In full makeup and tongue hanging down with blood dripping, etc. I was so scared but he thought it was the coolest picture and would just tell me to shut up and stop being a baby! Oh, fatherly love! j/k Then I had nightmares for years because he took me to the drive in to see JAWS when it first came out...I was only probaby 6 or 7. It terrified me!!! He'd sell drugs in front of me. Drink & party. I knew how to get the seeds out of weed and roll a good joint by the time I was 8 or 9 probably. He was gruff and abrasive. He used to call me into the room in front of all of his drunk and high biker buddies... "Budge!!! (that was his nickname for me since i was born...don't ask me why lol) Get in here!!! Look at my girl!! She's gonna be f****** hot as balls when she's grown!!! Look at these titties already growing!!! Any of you motherf****ers ever touch her and I'll cut your balls off!!! Now get your a** in there and get me some coffee and another beer!!!!" Yep, that was a typical weekend with my dad. He used to absolutely humiliate me.

It all came to a head when I was 16 and I told him I would come over but that I wanted to go to church sunday morning. He had a fit and became very, very verbally abusive. I told him that I didn't want to see him anymore and I never went back. He didn't give me away at my wedding. He didn't see my kids when they were born. Nothing.

I'm glad to say that before he died we made peace. When I went to see him in the nursing home I was struck by how broken & small he looked. I first saw him from behind and I recognized him immediately. He was wearing a flannel shirt like always. I recognized his hair. But he was different. He was slumped and weak. He didn't stand tall anymore. He couldn't stand at all. He was paralyzed on one side completely & partially on the other side since his stroke. He couldn't speak either. His speech was very garbled. He could try to talk but it was hard to understand. One of the thoughts I had immediately was that he had towered over people to intimidate them so many times that God wouldn't let him stand anymore. And he had raised his hands in anger so many times that now he couldn't use them at all. He had used words to hurt people so many times that now he lost his ability to be heard.

I learned a big lesson that day from my dad. Probably the biggest one my father ever taught me. I learned that I never wanted to be so rebellious and hard-headed that God has to wrestle me to the ground like that. I also learned something else. I learned that he loved me. He really loved me. I have no doubt about it and I can feel it in my soul. He loved his daughter. He just didn't know how to love me. He didn't know how to be a father. He was doing the best that he knew how to do at the time with the knowledge that he had...and failed miserably. As he sat there in his wheelchair holding one of his grandbabies on his lap for the very first time ever he was absolutely beaming with pride. He looked at me and smiled a half-crooked paralyzed smile and a tear ran down his face. He said as best as he could "this is the best birthday I've ever had." I'm crying like a baby as I write this just thinking about the look on his face, the light in his eyes and the sincerity in his voice that day. It changed my life. He even called me Veronica. I think it was the first time in my entire life that I ever heard him call me by my real name. He was trying so hard to treat me good. He wanted so bad to make me happy that day and to make peace that he was even afraid to call me by my nickname. You know, I grew up hating that nickname. But I've made peace with it. It's part of me now. At the funeral the family that I haven't seen for years referred to me as "Budge" all day and it actually felt good. It was comfortable and actually made me proud because that was a part of my dad...and I was no longer ashamed of him. I was proud of him. I am proud to admit that I am Nat's daughter. I look like him. I'm stubborn like him. I can sometimes do really dumb things to my own detriment like him.

Unfortunately that was the last time I saw my father alive. That was four years ago today. I never went back. I told myself that since I had made peace with him I didn't need to see him all the time. Didn't need "that kind" of a relationship with him. I think I was afraid that it was too good to be true. That the amazing healing experience I had would be wiped out with another visit if he decided not to be good anymore. And maybe that would've happened, maybe it wouldn't have. I don't know. I regret not going to see him again. That's one thing I would do differently. But I can't change that now. I got the call on the morning of August 25th that my dad had died that morning.

Some people might think I'm crazy but he came to see me when he died. I know he did. At about 4:15 or so in the morning I woke up out of a sound sleep....wide awake. It felt like someone was in my room. (remember I hadn't gotten the call yet)The sense of presence was so strong in my room that it actually started freaking me out. I remember actually praying and telling the Lord that I didn't know what was going on, but whatever was in my room to please make it leave because it was really obvious that I wasn't alone. LOL I even put a sleeping mask over my eyes because I was convinced that if I looked around I would see something. So I came out of my room to get the kids off to school and Randy was awake out here. So I said to him "I don't know what the heck happened here last night...did you feel anything weird a couple of hours ago?" and told him what happened. He agreed that it was strange and was amazed that I woke up like that (because once i'm out, i'm out! lol) It was just then that I got the phone call telling me that my dad had died. When I asked what time he passed they said "just a little after four." Some say coincedence, but I know that I have never in my life felt anything like that and I know it was him coming to say goodbye.

As I sat at the funeral looking around at my relatives that have good hearts but are more "rough around the edges", I realized that all the years I spent being resentful that he wasn't around were actually God's hand protecting me. He had other plans for me. Since my dad didn't know how to be a dad he removed him from my life. He allowed him back in just long enough for us to make peace and for me to see my father become a Christian. Now I get to spend all of eternity getting to know my dad...the real man. Not the man being filtered through drugs, alcohol and baggage. I'm so grateful that we have a God that is so merciful. It doesn't matter what we've done or haven't done...he loves us and welcomes us into his embrace the moment we ask him to. I'm also grateful that we have a God that watches over and protects the children of parents who screw up sometimes. Not just for myself, but because sometimes I can be more like my dad than I like to admit! Like father like daughter.:)

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