My Daddy is still with us – at least physically. I spent some time with him recently and I really wish that I could know if he knew me. Dementia is a terrible thing. He has been diagnosed with Lewy Body disease. Ironically, my dad’s name is Lewis and many of his friends called him Lewy. At this point, he is unable to feed himself, has difficulty swallowing food, is not mobile, and is unable to communicate. This is very difficult because he was always such a vibrant, meticulous person.
Daddy exercised regularly, ate well, took vitamins, and was always trying the latest health craze. He was obsessed with health. I remember him trying Bee Pollen once with some horrendous results. With Daddy, if one dose was beneficial, then two would be even better. He had an atrocious allergic reaction, broke out in hives all over, and had to stay in bed covered with only a sheet, AC turned up cold, and a fan blowing on him. This was bad enough, but it occurred the day before my parents were hosting a very large 4th of July party that was impossible to call off on such short notice!
I learned a great deal about business from my Daddy. He was a very successful State Farm Insurance Agent. After a 4 year stint in the Marines, Daddy went to work for Independent Life Insurance, following in the footsteps of his own father. My brother was born while he was still in the Marines and I followed soon after he began working for Independent Life in Orangeburg, SC. He was approached by a State Farm Manager from Charleston, SC to join the company as an agent. At the time, State Farm was virtually unknown in South Carolina. Daddy took a big risk and moved the family to Charleston. It turned out to be a fantastic decision. With hard work and dedication, he built a business that still serves him today. I often have people that comment on his dedication and personal attention regarding their insurance needs.
Daddy taught me a great deal about business and people. I always admired the fact that his employees were loyal and his workforce stable. He paid people well and treated them with respect. His theory was that an employer should never ask an employee to do something that he was not willing to do himself. He also believed in compensating people for the work that they did. Over the many years that he was in business, he had very little turnover. He knew that training a new person was more expensive than keeping someone that was well trained and dedicated. In the last several years of his working life, I was blessed to work with him. I know that he appreciated the fact that he could trust me and spend time away from the business while I was there, but he also blessed me considerably by being a fair and family oriented employer.
My parents have been apart for 25 years now, but they made an excellent team. Mom worked for Daddy some, but mainly, she took care of our family. She buffered his drive to work and made him realize the importance of family. Mom basically mandated that Daddy be present for dinner every night and that he spent the better part of his weekend with us. In the early years of my life, I can remember him going out on appointments in the evening and working 1/2 days on Saturday, but eventually, he began working 1/2 days on Fridays and taking the entire family camping on most weekends. Those weekends provide some of my best memories. We generally camped with my grandparents and sometimes with friends and cousins. Daddy loved fishing and his favorite spots were on the Edisto River.
Even though Daddy is still here, I miss him. I miss being able to get advice from him. He was the first person that I would ask when I was trying to make an important decision. He supported me during my divorce and encouraged me to get a Master’s Degree. I think he was quite proud of the fact that I pursued a college education and then a masters. I remember going to him when I was first married because I was having trouble making ends meet. I needed $100 dollars to hold me over until the end of the week. He raised all of us to provide for ourselves and take care of ourselves. It was very hard for me to ask to borrow what I thought was a lot of money. When I did, he just pulled a few bills out of his pocket. I repaid him within 4 days, but I don’t think it was a big deal to him. He loved me and I think that he would do anything for me. But, that said, he also made sure that I developed character and responsibility. I appreciate him for that. I now know that he could have “taken care” of anything I needed, but the fact that he made me be responsible for myself has served me well in life.
So, on this Father’s Day weekend, I want to honor my Daddy. I love you Daddy and I always will. Thank you for helping me to become the person that I am today.