The sound of the old pickup truck turning onto Flocktown road always sent a thrill up my spine. Dad was home! My brother JoJo and I would often meet him at the old stone bridge where we had spent hours catching crawdads and splashing in the creek.
The older I get the more I realize that in that truck sat a man probably exhausted from hoisting cinder blocks all day, or pouring concrete, or any number of physical exertions that would put a normal man in traction. They called him the wild man of Borneo, and for good reason. My little eyes tucked under blond curls would follow his every move on the job, marveling over the way he seemed to do things effortlessly while other men strained.
The pickup truck would stop at the bridge, and little squeals of delight would be heard as we scrambled into the back. Not only was he home, but dinner was just around the corner. I don’t remember him ever not smiling when he met us at the bridge. How did he do it? I know that money was short, and our legs were growing faster than the budget could keep up. I know that he was the boss and had to keep payroll for others. I know that he needed, on occasion, to pay delinquent customers a visit at their home, even brought us along when he had to put a little pressure on their wallet. I know he sacrificed innumerable dreams and desires so that we could grow up and make something of ourselves. I know how long those days in the trench were, and how short the nights.
Many years have passed since this little boy waited at the bridge. But there are times at night when I am restless, that my mind drifts back to that place, to that time. I am sitting on the stone ledge, stick in hand etching something or other in the dust. And suddenly I hear the belch of the down shift quarter mile away, and again I lift my head toward the sound, stand up and dance around a little. Dad is home!
I’ve been able to weather a lot of storms, help a lot of people, and with Ginnette raise an amazing family because that man came home! The image of his smile has been enough in the shadows of my own personal loss, uncertainty or fear, to put strength into me. What he gave me is more than tangible; it is a vision of manhood, of courage to face hard days, then greet with a smile my own brood waiting at the ‘bridge’ for their hero in the pickup truck.
Last week dad made his final stop at the bridge and found me waiting there at the corner of his bed. With strength seeping away, what strength was left of that powerful man seemed to rest in his eyes, and the ‘wild man of Borneo’ summoned it to gaze upward. Moments later, he arrived at his forever home, smiling broader and breathing easier than ever this side of heaven.
I love you Dad, welcome home!