Norman: The memories of my father will never fade


Yesterday my dad would have turned 99 years-old, and with Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I can’t help but think of him and the tremendous influence he had on my life.

Charlie Norman

Though he’s been gone some 14 years ago now, there’s probably not a day gone by he doesn’t cross my mind... probably several times. Despite our few times of strong disagreement, and a couple of relatively short periods of noncommunication, the details of those hard memories seem to be fading away with time ---  the good, fatherly, supporting, encouraging words and moments from him are what I recall much more easily.

I realize for some people, it’s just the other way around.  So I feel very fortunate and count my blessings accordingly.  I’m also finding it’s difficult to rid myself of some the things I inherited from him.

I mean, I’ve got some whitish/silver “New Balance” brand walking shoes of his, that I still wear to this day. When I put them on, I treat them gingerly, knowing his feet were right where mine are. And for some weird reason, I feel I stand a little taller, a little safer, a little more confident with them on. I know. I know. 

I’ve also got some ostrich leather cowboy boots of his that don’t fit just right,  yet I still put ’em on anyway, and wear them with pride and fond remembrance. 

Of course, there’s his old tools, watches, paintings and furniture… things I can’t seem to part with, and so I plan to pass them on to my kids one day. Maybe you understand. I have to tell you that Charles Jr. was by no means a saint. He had a tendency to be gruff,  volatile, and a fuddy-duddy --- character traits I was determined not to possess as I was growing up.

Know what?  I became just like him…like father, like son, I guess. (The good Lord still has work to do on me in those areas and more.) 

Later on in my own life, I came to understand my father better too.  Especially after I matured and became more aware things he went through. He had really tough times growing up in the Depression, became severely ill while fighting in the Pacific during WWII, and lost his firstborn at childbirth 2 1/2 years before I came around.

From those revelations came a better understanding of who my dad was, giving me a desire and more of a willingness to extend grace and forgiveness to him --- despite his reluctance to seek it.  

My father taught me the importance of being punctual, and of being honest and generous to those less fortunate. He also had a gentle, caring, loving way with pets and animals. I think I have that.

The thing is he didn’t preach all these things to me. He lived them out in front of me, and I adopted them as my own. In these 14 years since his passing, I frequently think of questions I should have asked him.

Like how I wished I'd have asked him more about my sister Adelle, whom I never knew. And how did he and Mom get through those sorrowful days? What’s the best memory he had of his own mother? His dad? Did he make good friends with any “Yankees” during his years in the War. What was the most fun thing he ever did with Mom, before and after marriage?

What was it like in Odessa when OHS won the state championship in football in 1946? Was there any one thing I did or said growing up that made him especially proud of me?

Questions, questions… questions I’ll never know the answers to until I reunite with him in heaven some day. So…“Dad, I’m writing this piece to honor you. For I know you loved me unconditionally… no matter anything. I also want you to know, I’m very proud to bear your name and be Charles III. Always. I miss you, Daddy.”  

To the reader:  I‘m writing this for you, too. If you have a parent that’s still alive, endeavor to ask questions. Dig deep if you dare, but only if they’re willing to talk. Probe gently and in love and you might find there’s stories in them you know not of. You’ll never regret it. For when they’re gone, the stories go with them.  

P.S.  I’ve been driving my dad’s old 2000 Toyota Avalon since I inherited it from him in 2007. It’s been my main car all these years, got 318,000 miles on it, and countless memories in it. One day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be giving her up… and I know I will need a couple facial tissues on hand.  

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.