In March of this year, I said goodbye to my father. As he laid on white hospital linens I hugged him and told him I’d see him in a couple of weeks, then again on Father’s Day, of course, I said.


I had no idea that before the month was out I would be speaking words of remembrance at his funeral. Words I had originally penned for a book of compiled “father stories.” A book I would surprise him with. A book he never saw.


Eulogy for a Great Father

I’m trying to remember a time when my father didn’t strap a holster to his belt before walking out the door for work, but I can’t. Every morning before kissing my mother good-bye, he reached to the top of the refrigerator where his gun had been safely stored during the night. He’d unbuckle his belt, slip the leather out of a couple of the loops, slide the holster on, and re-buckle. And then out the door he’d go.


It never occurred to me the amount of danger he was in for wearing that gun. Daddy, a graduate of the FBI Academy, worked for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as a Special Investigator. He drove a state-issued car with a radio that squelched the voices of dispatchers, sending out information about crimes and criminals. He chased down murderers and thieves, even if it meant going without food or sleep for days. He won shooting contests and was considered among the best interrogators the state of Georgia had ever employed.


But, to me, he was just Daddy, the most special man in my life.


The Way It Was
We lived in a ranch-style house in the center of a 1960s quintessential middle-class neighborhood. My bedroom was at the far end front corner, with large windows stretching across the house’s face and side. With the drapes pulled open, I had a clear view of the road toward the entrance of the subdivision. In the afternoons — on those days when Daddy wasn’t away on some special case — I watched intently for his return home. As soon as I saw the car round the corner I headed to the front of the house, arriving at the door between the kitchen and the family room about the same time Daddy did.


I flung myself into his arms, the roughness of the gun’s grip scraping against the tender flesh under my arm. Not that I cared. It could have taken off an inch of skin and I wouldn’t have cared. Daddy was home. As his arms came around me, his fingers curled, scratching up and down my back until my knees buckled and he had to squeeze even harder to keep me from falling.


I giggled, “Sto-o-o-op!” but I didn’t mean it. It could continue forever; when Daddy hugged me, nothing in the world could possibly go wrong. Everything in life was as ideal as I wanted it to be.


The Way It Became
As little girls do, I grew up, married, and moved out of state, seeing Daddy only a few times a year. Still, with each greeting, my arms found their way around his waist and his fingers still scratched up and down my back. There was no gun, however. Not anymore. Daddy had retired and the pistol he’d worn at his side for so many years had been locked away in a safer place than the top of a refrigerator.